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HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has "substantial concerns" following inspection of Harmondsworth


Inspection report of Harmondsworth immigration removal centre finds unacceptable decline in conditions

Date of Publication:
01 March 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has "substantial concerns" following inspection of Harmondsworth

01 March 2016

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has today published an inspection report of Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow airport.

You can read the 98-page report here.

Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that the state of drift previously identified at Harmondsworth had halted and it was heading in the right direction, but substantial concerns needed addressing.

Today's inspection report found that many concerns identified in an earlier 2013 inspection have not been rectified and in some respects, matters have deteriorated.

The report states: "Overall, while this report describes some good work, it highlights substantial concerns in most of our tests of a healthy custodial establishment. While the state of drift that we described in our last report has been arrested and the direction of travel is now positive, it is unacceptable that conditions were allowed to decline so much towards the end of the last contract. The Home Office and its contractors have a responsibility to ensure that this is not allowed to happen again."

The Chief Inspector found that the condition of some of the older parts of Harmondsworth was among the worst in the entire UK immigration detention estate.

A press release summarised the main concerns as:

• nearly half of the men held said they had felt depressed or suicidal on arrival but despite an improved reception environment, early days risk assessment processes were not good enough;

• some detainees were segregated for too long, and inspectors were not assured that this serious measure was always justified;

• 18 detainees had been held for over a year and one man had been detained on separate occasions adding up to a total of five years;

• the quality of Rule 35 reports was variable but nearly a fifth of these reports had identified illnesses, suicidal intentions and/or experiences of torture that contributed to the Home Office concluding that detention could not be justified;

• some of the newer accommodation was dirty and rundown, and in parts of the older units, many toilets and showers were in a seriously insanitary condition and many rooms were overcrowded and poorly ventilated: although an extensive programme of refurbishment was underway, the centre should never have been allowed to reach this state;

• there was little positive engagement between staff and detainees; and

• despite some improvements in access to work, training and education, movements were still too restricted, which affected detainees' ability to reach the available resources.

In an article on the report, the Guardian highlighted how the Chief Inspector of Prisons backed calls for a limit on how long people can be held in immigration removal centres after finding one detainee held for more than five years.

BBC News reported that the Chief Inspector of Prisons found conditions at Harmondsworth "desolate", with bare rooms, broken equipment, bed bugs and cockroaches.

Jerome Phelps of Detention Action, was quoted by Detention Forum as saying: "The detention system as a whole should not have been allowed to reach this state. Once again, detention has been shown to be failing to meet the minimum standards that society demands. The Home Office detains far too many people, with inadequate care, for far too long. The Government has accepted the need for reform; this report shows that that reform must be urgent and fundamental."

According to the Chief Inspector of Prisons' report, following the inspection, the Home Office said that lessons had been learned and that a new set of principles have been established to prevent a recurrence of the unacceptable decline of conditions.