One person removed under Dublin Convention, 29 others have removal directions cancelled
HMI Prisons inspection report on removals to France and Lithuania finds vulnerabilities of immigration detainees are identified early enough
15 December 2020
Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMI Prisons) on Friday published an inspection report on the removal of immigration detainees to France and Lithuania.
The 19-page report can be read here.
For the report, HMI Prisons inspected a flight from Birmingham on 29 October 2020 which removed 13 Lithuanian detainees to Vilnius and one Iraq detainee to Toulouse, France under the Dublin Convention.
HMI Prisons noted that 30 detainees were originally due to be removed under the Dublin Convention, but only 10 remained on the day of the flight and further late cancellations of removal directions meant only one eventually boarded the flight.
Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, expressed concern in the report that "such cancellations were commonplace and suggest that detainees' vulnerabilities, which often lead to cancellations, are not identified early enough."
The report noted: "In four cases, removal directions were cancelled very late, after we interviewed detainees in the afternoon before the flight. The late cancellation of removal directions was not unusual. Our inspection on 13 October of an overseas escort and removal to Sweden and Romania, found removal directions in three cases were only cancelled on the evening of the flight. In our inspection on 12 August of an escort and removal to Germany and France, removal was cancelled in four cases between midnight and 3.10am when the flight took off. Escort staff told us these were not isolated cases.
"Some detainees we interviewed who were waiting for news of whether their removal would proceed were in a considerable state of anxiety. In one case, risk information provided to the escort also described the detainee as having 'significant mental health stress resulting from torture'. Another detainee was waiting for a Home Office response to a trafficking referral. Removal directions were cancelled in both of these cases."
HMI Prisons found that escort staff were provided with scant information about detainees' vulnerabilities and inspectors were not satisfied that escort staff had sufficient knowledge of risk information or took due regard of it.
The report also noted: "Detainees being removed to France told us that they had been given no information about what would happen when they got there, or about support groups there."
The report otherwise found that the removal operation went reasonably smoothly, though the fact that there were 62 escort and health care staff accompanying the 14 detainees made it difficult to observe social distancing.
HMI Prisons stated: "Sufficient food and drink were provided during the journey. Throughout the operation, detainees were dealt with in a calm and controlled way and they were compliant. A number of escort staff attempted to establish a good rapport with the detainees they were responsible for on the coaches and the aircraft, although this practice was not consistent among all staff. The presence of an interpreter assisted with communication, although they were not always available when needed. Disembarkation at Toulouse and Vilnius went smoothly."
Charlie Taylor added: "Most improvements noted in our previous inspection (of a flight to Sweden and Romania) were sustained and the escort operation was handled well."