UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced that there will be a fresh investigation into the treatment and welfare of detainees held in immigration removal centres amid reports of ongoing abuse. We understand that the Home Office had the report about a year ago, but only decided to publish it recently.
The investigation will be led by former Prisons & Probations Ombudsman for England & Wales, Stephen Shaw CBE.
Complaints about violence and sexual abuse
Following complaints from detainees and activist groups concerning treatment at some of the UK's immigration removal centres, Mrs May has vowed to conduct a thorough investigation.
Allegations of violence and sexual abuse have embroiled UK detention centres for many years say former detainees and activists, but voices go 'unheard'.
Responding to the allegations of abuse taking place on her watch, Mrs May said: "Immigration detention is a vital tool in helping ensure those with no right to remain in the UK are returned to their home country. But, I take the welfare of those in the government's care very seriously and I want to ensure the health and wellbeing of all detainees, some of whom may be vulnerable, is safeguarded at all times."
She added: "I want to build an immigration system that is fair, fair to British citizens & legitimate migrants. However, the removal of illegal immigrants requires an equal sense of fairness."
Investigation likely to take six months
It's anticipated that this latest investigation into immigration detention centres will commence in a matter of weeks and will take six months to complete. Shaw will be interviewing charities, detainees, prison officials and non-government organisations throughout the process. It is hoped that this will provide an accurate assessment of conditions at immigration removal centres.
Shaw will also liaise with prison inspectors and the current Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
The latest accusations of mistreatment in immigration detention centres have caused further embarrassment to the coalition government. The Government already faced criticism about detention centre policies due to increased incidences of self-harm, suicide and sexual abuse at the detention centres.
Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre
Under particular scrutiny is Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre. In January, the charity Women for Refugee Women discovered that detainees at the centre were 'subjected to humiliation on a routine basis', often by male members of staff.
As well as physical abuse, detainees are said to have to endure mental cruelty. Staff allegedly taunt those being held, telling them that they're 'guaranteed to be deported'. Those already suffering with mental health issues also face abuse; campaign groups claim that nothing is done about this.
Just nine percent of health warnings relating to the mental health of inmates of the centres result in the release of detainees suffering from mental health problems.
Over the last three years, UK courts have found that the rights of six mentally ill detainees had been violated.
May hopes that the investigation and report will provide a 'clear picture' of what is happening in the UK immigration removal centres. She vows that evidence of wrong-doing will lead to swift action.
Comment by Sanwar Ali, Editor, workpermit.com News
"I am not at all surprised to hear about further problems at immigration removal centres. We ourselves have investigated conduct at an organisation sponsored by the Home Office. Not we hasten to add anything to do with the immigration removal centres. We have uncovered evidence of serious abuses of power. Attempts have been made by this organisation sponsored by the Home Office to prevent freedom of speech; complaints about this organisation are routinely ignored or perhaps "lost"; the organisation starts "dirty tricks campaigns" against people they do not like; the organisation regularly makes false and highly misleading statements; the organisation frequently becomes involved with fraudsters which then results in more fraud. While this is not directly relevant to immigration removal centres or indeed the organisation running the centres it is a further indication of serious problems at another organisation that the Home Office works closely with.
It is also hoped that especially after the atrocities committed at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France last month that an organisation sponsored by the Home Office would not wish to be seen to be preventing freedom of speech. This is the sort of attitude you would expect to see in a "Police State" Not in a Western democracy. Over about twenty years we have tried to avoid being seen to be too "political". No more! Those intending to Vote in the General Election in May 2015 may wish to take into account what is happening in Britain today in what is supposed to be a free and fair society when voting."