This is from the British National Newspaper for Prisoners Inside Time:
By Charles Hanson, from insidetime issue December 2011
Charles Hanson puts the spotlight on immigration centres
Immigration removal centres or prisons?
What with over 107,300 persons being legally detained in the UK one could be forgiven for thinking that the UK is heading towards the creation of a fortress state. As of October 2011 figures showed that there are 87,700 prisoners in England and Wales, 7,900 in Scotland, 1,400 in Northern Ireland, 280 in the Channel Islands, 90 on the Isle of Man, and 1,055 patients detained in Secure Hospitals. There are another 5,000 in medium secure psychiatric units, 300 children in Secure Training Centres, 315 in Secure Children’s Homes and 3,300 in Immigration Removal Centres. For the purpose of this article I will focus on those detained in Immigration Removal Centres.
Immigration Removal Centres are holding centres for foreign nationals awaiting decisions on their failed asylum application claims or awaiting deportation following a failed application. Previously known as ‘detention centres’, the name was formally changed to ‘removal centres’ under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to “reflect the part played by detention in the removal of failed asylum-seekers and others”. The power to detain immigrants was first provided by the Immigration Act 1971, which allowed the detention of asylum seekers in detention centres or even prisons. Prior to 2002 there were two types of detention centre: the removal centre and the removal prison. These were much like prison facilities, with the aim being to impose restrictions on the movement of the detainees, so that the government could monitor their whereabouts whilst their claims were being processed. Some were actually held in prisons.
The detention of asylum seekers in such austere conditions was widely condemned by human rights groups, politicians, and many others who insisted that they should not be treated like criminals. By 2001, the number of asylum seekers had reached an all-time high and the government embarked on a programme to provide a network of detention centres with the aim of moving towards a situation where no asylum seeker would be held in a prison. In addition, the ‘Detention Centre Rules 2001’ were introduced which stipulated the way in which the centres were to be run, ensuring humane treatment of all detainees. The Detention Centre Rules 2001 sets out the objectives of each holding centre as: “The purpose of detention centres shall be to provide for the secure but humane accommodation of detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment, and to encourage and assist detained persons to make the most productive use of their time, whilst respecting in particular their dignity and the right to individual expression.”
A particularly controversial and emotive topic is the detention of children in immigration removal centres. Following an unannounced visit to Yarl’s Wood centre by Anne Owers, the then Chief Inspector of Prisons, a report published in March 2010 concluded that many children were being held unnecessarily, often for long periods of time, and that this was having a noticeable adverse effect on the children’s well-being, causing “disruption and distress” to them and their families.
The problem of “hidden children” being held in immigration detention centres is also an issue. The IMB’s annual report revealed that six children who were held last year at Harmondsworth were removed by social services when it was established they were, in fact, children. After the IMB reported that: “Arrangements should be made for the rapid assessment of those claiming to be under 18,” the latest addition to the immigration removal estate “Cedars” in East Sussex was opened in August 2011. Cedars is a pre-departure accommodation centre for nine families who can be held for 72 hours or up to a week in “exceptional circumstances”. The government claims that with Cedars they have “put an end to child detention”. The facility is run by Group 4 with play facilities for children provided by Barnardo’s; despite several protests against Barnardo’s demanding that they cease their involvement in the deportation machine.
Read the rest here.