charity argues Home Office has breached Detention Services policies and common law right of access to legal advice
Detention Action launches legal action after immigration detainees left unable to contact lawyers due to mobile phone outage
06 February 2020
The charity Detention Action said yesterday that it has issued a legal challenge over the Home Office's failure to ensure that detainees held in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) have effective access to legal advice.
As reported by the Guardian, detainees at the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs near Heathrow have suffered severe signal disruption to their mobile phone signals since early January, leaving them unable to contact their lawyers.
Detention Action notes that the outage, which is due to a fault with a local O2 mast, has coincided with removal charter flights to Nigeria and Ghana on 29 January and to France on 30 January.
The charity says its legal action argues that the Home Office has failed to provide an adequate means of communication thus breaching Detention Services policies and the common law right of access to legal advice and the courts.
Detention Action wants to compel the Home Office to immediately provide alternative SIM cards to detainees to prevent anyone from being removed without having effective access to legal advice and assistance.
Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: "If you're locked up in a detention centre and face being sent back to a country where your life is in danger, phone signal is a lifeline not a luxury. Your phone is your connection to the outside world, and the only means to defend yourself against a wrongful removal. The remedy for this situation is simple, and the Home Office must ensure that anyone it intends to remove from the UK has access to adequate legal support."
The legal action comes as a further removal charter flight to Jamaica is scheduled for 11 February.
Jacqueline McKenzie of McKenzie Beute and Pope told the Guardian that she was concerned that the Government was going ahead with another large-scale deportation to Jamaica before the publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned review.
Labour MP David Lammy said on Twitter that the Home Office should not be chartering deportation flights to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean before the Windrush review has been published.
In response, a Home Office spokesperson was quoted by the Guardian as saying: "The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically for removing foreign criminals. Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing class A drugs."