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Prisons inspector slams “unacceptable” Home Office inaction on detention centres


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The chief inspector of prisons has attacked the Home Office for its “unacceptable” failure to respond to his reports on immigration detention centres. Peter Clarke, writing in the annual report of HM Inspectorate of Prisons, said that only half the action plans supposed to be drawn up had been sent to him since December 2016.

Mr Clarke says:

After every inspection of an immigration detention facility it is the agreed protocol with the Home Office that within three months of the publication of the report, an action plan will be produced to address issues raised during the inspection. It is disappointing to report that despite my writing to the then Immigration Minister in November 2017 to point out that there were action plans outstanding from as far back as December 2016, and receiving a letter of apology from the new Minister in February 2018, by May 2018 we had only received one of the outstanding action plans, which was unacceptable. Action was finally taken in June 2018, although at the time of writing, we were still awaiting half of the outstanding plans, with the rest promised imminently.

The findings will increase the perception that the Home Office does not take seriously the recommendations of external inspectors, coming just weeks after the immigration inspector revealed that almost half of his recommendations to the department had not been followed. Official responses to critical reports tend to say things like:

The government… welcomes this important contribution to the debate about effective detention, and accepts the broad thrust of his recommendations.


Work is already underway to take forward the recommendations in this report.

But (in)actions speak louder than words.

On individual detention centres, the report notes considerable improvement at Yarl’s Wood which is now “reasonably good” or “good” on all measures, while Harmondsworth has failed to come up to scratch for the third year running. It also concludes that “The Home Office’s policy to protect adults at risk had not been effective in keeping many vulnerable people out of detention”, highlighting a sustained increase in the number of deaths in or immediately after detention.

The Home Office said that more action plans had been sent across since the annual report went to print, and that those outstanding are being urgently addressed.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.