Human Rights and Immigration Detention / Removal Centres in UK

The 1971 Immigration Act outlines the powers of the U.K government to detain foreign nationals in immigration removal centres.

Under the Immigration Act 1971, a person can be detained whilst a decision is made about their immigration status, before a decision is made allowing them to enter the U.K (mainly affecting asylum seekers) or pending a person’s removal from the U.K.

However, in recent years, removal centres have become a topic of controversy particularly with regard to the treatment of immigrants as criminals.

Government guidance setting out reasons for detention outlines the following:

  • when a claim for asylum is being fast-tracked (the detained fast track system), or when it is being fast-tracked without the ability to appeal (‘detained non-suspensive appeal’);
  • when removal from the UK is considered ‘imminent’;
  • when a person is considered likely to abscond;
  • when there is not enough information to decide whether or not to allow a person to be admitted or released;
  • when release is not considered to be ‘conducive to the public good’; or
  • while waiting for alternative arrangements to be made for the person’s care.

However, there is nothing in the immigration legislation that limits the time a person can be detained for.

Segregation and punishment

In 2017 the U.K government faced a court ruling stating that the treatment of detainees was unlawful. The court found that the Home Office had unlawfully used solitary confinement as a form of punishment, for over 24 hours.

Under the law, the Home Secretary must issue a further action notice for the punishment to be used for longer than 24 hours which they had failed to do so. The asylum seeker, fleeing Kenya on the grounds of her sexuality,was detained for 28 hours and stated that she was detained because she ‘refused to go quietly’.

This is the first court ruling regarding the use of segregation and isolation punishments. However, activists and medical professionals have been challenging this procedure for years with ‘Medical Justice’ stating that ‘segregation is one of the most severe and dangerous sanctions that can be imposed on detainees – it’s devastating impact on mental and physical health is widely recognised.’

Despite the controversy regarding segregation, there is surprisingly little scrutiny of its usage or provisions to safeguard the mental and physical health of detainees.

Abusive treatment

Following this, in September 2017 a BBC Panorama documentary exposed the shocking treatment of detainees held in immigration removal centres across the U.K . An undercover worker secretly filmed at Brooke Immigration Removal Centre revealing violent methods used by staff and members of the security company G4S.

G4S guards were filmed allegedly choking, mocking and abusing detainees whilst other guards openly confessed to use of torture tactics. This was accompanied by distressing footage and references to suicide attempts by detained members of the removal centre.

The High Court had previously found on several occasions that the detention of vulnerable individuals had amounted to cruel and degrading treatment, breaching human rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the BBC Panorama documentary highlighted the systemic and insidious violence present at detention centres across the U.K still to this day.

Further controversy also surrounds the £2.4m profit made by G4S on the running of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre.

Politics of Fear

The detention of foreign nationals has been widely criticised by human rights groups and organisations for many years. These groups argue against the treatment of immigrants as criminals and against the use of both detention and solitary confinement.

The continued exposure of degrading treatment and human rights abuses, by both media and activist groups, highlights a further issue in British society and one of Western Europe. This is surrounding the perception of immigration as a viral threat to the social fabric of society.

Furthermore, dehumanising rhetoric used against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is a significant factor in the human rights abuses within detention centres.

We must question whether a public discourse, marred by use of dehumanising language, is a contributing factor to the human rights abuses faced by the migrant community.

Furthermore, the government has been mandated  into strict action on immigration and whether this strict approach coupled with rapacious profit yielding immigration centres, has slowly started to sully the U.K’s human rights record.

How can we help? Detention defence

We have a number of Immigration solicitors who specialise in the field of human rights and specifically with cases where individuals are deprived of their liberty or detained.

Our immigration solicitors will be able to advise you on your application, making an application for bail and representing you at your bail hearing.

We can offer support in the following ways:

  • Representing you to the detention centre
  • Liaising with the Home Office national Removal Command
  • Contacting sureties
  • Completing paper work and applications.
  • Representation at bail hearings

Please do not hesitate to contact us for free initial case assessment.