Services fail detained asylum seekers

Immigration centres housing unsuccessful asylum seekers are
failing to provide appropriate mental health care for detainees or
adequate services for children, according to the chief inspector of
prisons, writes Anabel Unity Sale.

Speaking after the publication of the first five inspection
reports produced by the prison inspectorate into four immigration
removal centres and one immigration reception centre, Anne Owers
said: “We didn’t find a high level of mental health
support in the centres and didn’t find a lot of understanding
about the psychological trauma these people had been

The inspection reports say that asylum seekers at the Campsfield
House, Haslar and Tinsley House immigration removal centres,
who had serious mental health problems but were not sectionable,
“remained in a custodial rather than therapeutic

Mental health provision at the Oakington immigration reception
centre was criticised by the inspectors for relying on
self-assessment and lacking routine mental health screening. The
report says: “There is a limited service from the local
psychiatric hospital, but staff report a high prevalence of
insomnia, anxiety and panic which remained largely

Children of detained asylum seekers at the Tinsley House centre
were left in a holding room unattended while their parents where
dealt with. At Oakington there were no facilities for children aged
over 12, and they were left to “roam the centre under the
theoretical supervision of a parent”.

The prison inspectorate recommends children should be detained
for no more than seven days, and that those centres holding
children have in place “robust child protection safeguard and
effective liaison with local area child protection

Strip searches were carried out on all detained asylum seekers
at the Lindholme and Haslar centres, where detainees complained
they were not conducted in a culturally appropriate or professional

There was also concern about “unscrupulous ” legal advisers able
to “prey” on asylum seekers by overcharging them.

Home office minister Beverley Hughes criticised some of the
reports’ findings for reflecting only the comments of
detainees. “As people are generally unhappy about being
detained and removed from the country, it is unsurprising that they
express dissatisfaction with their situation,” she said.

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