IMB's annual report on Lincolnshire detention centre notes improvements as well as continuing concerns
Independent Monitoring Board concerned by increase in self-harm and detention of those with mental health conditions at Morton Hall
29 August 2019
The volunteer Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) today published its annual report on Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).
You can read the 19-page report here.
The report presents the findings of the IMB for the period between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018. Some 97 visits were made to Morton Hall during that period.
Overall, the IMB found that some improvements had been made at Morton Hall in 2018 and every effort is made to treat detainees with dignity and respect, but some ongoing concerns remained, in particular with regard to self-harm.
The report states: "The Board notes the significant increase in the number of incidents of self-harm (181 in 2017; 217 in 2018). During the second quarter of 2018, there were a number of prolific self-harmers; during the third quarter of the year three detainees were responsible for one third of 34 incidents. In a number of instances, acts of self-harm were said by detainees involved to have been promoted by a feeling of frustration and uncertainty about being held in detention."
While the IMB found the safety, welfare and dignity of detainees are matters of priority and the majority of detainees said that they felt safe, the report notes that physical altercations between detainees continue to be relatively common, thought the number decreased from 117 in 2017 to 86 last year.
In addition, there were 233 reported instances of the use of force in 2018.
Mental health provision at Morton Hall continued to improve, but the IMB questioned the suitability of an IRC environment for detainees with a significant mental health condition or who have other circumstances that might heighten vulnerability.
The report says: "A number of detainees are held at Morton Hall even though they are categorised 'adults at risk', arising from the likes of a mental health condition/impairment, a serious physical disability or, possibly, been a victim of torture or violence. During 2018, at any one time, there was an average of 42 detainees at Morton Hall where there was professional evidence indicating such conditions (level two adults at risk). Moreover, on occasions during the year, there were men judged to be at level three where professional evidence indicated that a period of detention is likely to cause them harm. Taking twelve snapshot data points, on the first day of each month, there were two occasions when this was the case. On the first day of July 2018, two detainees were designated level three; on the first day of September there was one."
The average length of time detainees spent at Morton Hall during 2018 was between two and four weeks. However, the IMB was very concerned that 1% of detainees had been held for over six months.
All detainees were found to have access to legal advisers, and legal advisers attend Morton Hall during weekdays.
Malcolm Brock, chair of the IMB at Morton Hall, said: "As a board, we see improvements in the conditions for men at Morton Hall but remain concerned about the suitability of a detention environment for some detainees. We recognise the vigilance of staff in identifying detainees who are struggling to cope within the IRC. Nonetheless the increase in incidents of self-harm is a matter of definite concern and is indicative of the difficulties that an uncertain and indefinite length of time in detention presents for the wellbeing of some detainees."
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) said on Twitter: "To have 217 incidents of self-harm in one year, in one detention centre, tells you all you need to know about the harm caused by our immigration detention system. This cannot continue."
In response to the report, a Home Office spokesman told BBC News: "Immigration detention is an important part of the wider immigration system, and we are committed to using detention sparingly and only when necessary.
"We have made significant improvements recently and are committed to doing more and introducing further alternatives to detention, increasing transparency and improving the support available for vulnerable detainees."