Owers condemns Harmondsworth

Conditions at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre are “inimical to the proper care and treatment of detainees”, the chief inspector of prisons said this week.

Anne Owers described her report as the poorest ever issued on an immigration removal centre. The centre failed to perform satisfactorily against any of the prison inspectorate’s tests of a healthy custodial environment.

Owers said: “It has been allowed to slip into a culture and approach wholly at odds with its stated purpose and is inimical to the proper care and treatment of detainees.”

She added that the situation was “essentially a problem of management” and it was of concern that this has not been resolved  earlier by the contractor and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.
Inspectors found high use of force and temporary confinement in segregated conditions.

Since January 2006 temporary confinement had been authorised 129 times, a quarter of which were for more than 24 hours.

Owers said its use did not always appear justified and was sometimes used as a response to poor behaviour rather than for reasons of security or safety.

The report adds that the correct action had not been taken in response to problems identified by the inquiry into a recent self-inflicted death at the centre.

Meanwhile, MPs were told last week that conditions in removal centres meant there was nothing to prevent a murder such as
that of Zahid Mubarek taking place.

Jago Russell, policy officer for human rights body Liberty, told the joint committee on human rights no safety assessments took place before people shared cells at the centres.

Mubarek was killed by his racist cellmate Robert Stewart at Feltham young offender institution in 2000.

The committee is holding an inquiry into the treatment of asylum seekers.

Harmondsworth report


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