Immigrant holding centres 'still lacking'

Watchdog says facilities for holding immigrants still not adequate
Watchdog says facilities for holding immigrants still not adequate

Immigrants held in detention centres awaiting deportation are still not being treated properly, the prisons watchdog has warned today.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers says that although conditions in four short-term holding facilities have improved, concerns about access to key services remain.

She warns detainees at Colnbrook centre near Heathrow airport, which holds about two dozen people, are still spending "unacceptably long periods" locked in single rooms.

There was also a lack of information and advice for those facing removal, and more than a third of detainees said they had felt unsafe.

A separate report into facilities at Reliance House and John Lennon Airport, both in Liverpool, and Sandford House in Solihull finds continuing problems with child protection and support facilities, and an absence of regular healthcare provision.

"We are pleased to see that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate has responded to some of our concerns about these facilities, now that inspection has brought their operation into the public domain," said Ms Owers.

"However, accommodation still remains inadequate in many centres and the needs of detainees, in relation to healthcare, information and advice, and preparations for release are not yet sufficiently met."

Home Office minister Liam Byrne said he took the criticisms "very seriously" but noted there had been improvements in short-term immigration holding facilities, which he stressed were only intended to accommodate people for "very brief periods of time".

"Detention is an essential part of an effective immigration system, but it is critical that it is done with humanity and dignity," he said.

However, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said ministers "should be ashamed" at the situation, saying today's reports confirmed "that for the government, these people are out of sight and out of mind".

"Unacceptable conditions in these removal centres are made all the worse by the fact that so many deportees find themselves detained for months or even years because of the bureaucratic meltdown in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate," he said.


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