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Rwanda policy causing ‘stress, upset and increased chances of self-harm’ for detainees


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The Independent Monitoring Board has explicitly connected the Rwanda agreement with an increased risk of detainees self-harming in its latest report. The ‘Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Board at Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre’ for 2022 covers the Colnbrook and Harmondsworth centres.

The usual themes of these reports are there, including poor Home Office communications and a list of unactioned recommendations to ministers from last year’s report. Concerningly, the report notes that the increase in the number of acts of self-harm from 2014 in 2021 to 150 in 2022 will be partially linked to an increase in the detained population. However it also states that:

Every effort should be made to minimise the stress, upset and increased chances of self-harm caused by the Migration and Economic Development Partnership [Rwanda] policy, on both those affected and those in the wider immigration detention estate.

The board’s charter flight monitoring team are also due to publish their annual report for 2022, presumably quite soon as last year’s was published in June. This will include a report of the welfare of people taken from the removal centre to the military airport at Boscombe Down where the Rwanda flight was due to leave from.

The Home Office is currently looking to expand the detention estate by a further 1,000 places at an estimated cost of £306 million. This is in addition to the re-opening of Campsfield and Haslar immigration removal centres and the associated costs of that. Expansion of the detention estate will lead to more incidents of self-harm, as well as the other harms caused by detention including to people’s mental health. There remains no evidence for detention acting as a deterrent to people coming to the UK, so all that is likely to be achieved by this is harm to people who came here seeking safety.

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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.