Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Home Office continues to remove prescribed medicine from detainees despite Independent Monitoring Boards’ warnings


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

The Independent Monitoring Boards have published their National Annual Report for 2022 on the immigration detention estate and concerns have been raised in relation to several areas, many of which will be familiar to anyone working in this area.

People are still being detained for too long, including one person who was held for over a thousand days, with severe consequences for their mental health. People are also being detained after they have been granted bail or release has been otherwise authorised. Those in short term holding facilities were being held beyond the legal time limits. As we have highlighted just this week, there are also issues with the increasing numbers and length of detention of those people who have mental health needs leaving them particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.

Also concerning is the removal of prescription medicine from people who are being held at short term holding facilities:

Home Office policy requires that all medication, including prescribed medication, must be removed from those detained in STHFs. Detention Custody Officers (DCOs) are not authorised to dispense this medication, even when a detained person is required to have a regular dose at a specified time. Most STHFs have no specific provision for healthcare. Should a detained person require access to their medication, staff have to obtain medical input and advice via NHS phone services, paramedics or other emergency service facilities. However, IMBs have observed instances of problems with this process, with the result that people were unable to take their prescribed dose, leaving them at risk of medical deterioration or collapse.

The report goes on to set out that mitigation strategies have been put in place at some short term holding facilities, allowing detainees to take their medication under paramedic supervision at the London airports. In 2022 at Heathrow airport, there were 1,352 call outs to the service and the majority of these were to administer people’s own medication.

The need is very clearly there and it is concerning that this service is only available at select short term holding facilities. Even more concerning is the fact that the Independent Monitoring Boards have been raising this as an issue since 2017, with very little progress made to resolve what is plainly a very dangerous situation.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.