‘Stubborn’ immigration detainees face solitary confinement

By agency reporter
August 9, 2016

The civil and human rights organisation Liberty has written to the Home Office condemning unprecedented new guidance that would allow detainees at immigration removal centres to be placed in solitary confinement for being ‘stubborn’.

The Detention Services Order sets out the first ever guidelines for Home Office staff on the use of solitary confinement within immigration removal centres where those appealing deportation can be held indefinitely.

The proposals allow for periods of segregation longer than 14 days and fail to safeguard against its repeated use – flying in the face of current rules and medical advice and risking permanent damage to detainees’ health.

Sara Ogilvie, Policy Officer at Liberty, said: “Limitless immigration detention is a dark stain on our country’s human rights record. Adding the cruel practice of solitary confinement to the mix is a grave injustice which risks causing serious harm to innocent and vulnerable individuals.

“But instead of abolishing this inhumane system, the Home Office’s latest Order would compound the problem by authorising the segregation of those who are deemed stubborn or suffer mental health problems, even where confinement may be life-threatening.

“The UK Government should be ashamed at its failure to afford even the most basic dignity and security to those within its care.”

In a detailed response to the Home Office, Liberty has highlighted several areas of serious concern, including that the Order:

  •         Provides for “Temporary Confinement” of detainees who are “refractory or violent”. It defines ‘refractory detainee’ as “someone who is stubborn, unmanageable or disobedient”.
  •         Provides no safeguards against the use of solitary confinement as an arbitrary and informal punishment.
  •          Would allow detention of longer than 14 days – despite the fact that no provision is made in existing Detention Centre Rules legislation for segregation beyond this – and does nothing to safeguard against repeat segregation. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture warns of the risk of permanent negative effects where segregation exceeds 15 days.
  •        States that staff should consider medical advice that segregation “would be seriously detrimental to a detainee’s health or is life threatening”. Liberty argues advice that a person’s health would be harmed in any way must not simply be considered, but heeded.
  •        Allows for use of segregation as a way to manage those at risk of suicide and self-harm.
  •        Provides for insufficient healthcare during a person’s segregation – those in solitary confinement would be observed hourly by an “assigned officer”, rather than by anyone qualified to assess the detainee’s health. In prisons, by contrast, a doctor or registered nurse must complete an initial health screening within two hours of a person’s segregation.
  •        Does not provide equivalent safeguards around segregation for people detained in immigration removal centres as those applied to prisoners in jails

The UK is one of few European countries to place no maximum time limit on immigration detention purely for administrative convenience – including of pregnant women and survivors of torture and rape.

* Read Liberty’s full response to the Home Office DSO on Removal from Association and Temporary Confinement: here

* Liberty https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/


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