Weapons carried by immigration centre staff

The chief inspector of prisons has called for an end to the use
of weapons by immigration detention staff after finding staff
carrying wooden staves at Haslar immigration removal centre.

In an inspection report published today, Anne Owers raised concern
that some custody staff routinely carried staves at the centre in
Hampshire, and found that one had been drawn, although not used, on
one occasion.

She said: “There may be exceptional circumstances that demand
the issue of weaponry, but their routine deployment in a centre
holding those not convicted of any criminal offence is intimidating
and, significantly, is not regarded as necessary in private sector
removal centres.”

Owers’ report on the inspection between 9-14 May also
criticised staff for handcuffing detainees while they were being
escorted to healthcare appointments outside the centre.

The report also found the 160-strong centre provided
“poor” accommodation and called for investment to bring
it up to standard.

It highlighted that a “significant” number of detainees
reported feeling unsafe and found that anti-bullying arrangements
were inadequate.

The report said: “The regime and living environment
undoubtedly contributed to anxiety and distrust among detainees,
most of whom had never before been in a custodial environment,
associated it with criminality and shame, and did not believe
anything they had done warranted incarceration.” 

Vehicles used to escort detainees were deemed “not fit for
purpose,” and the inspector found that detainees experienced
abuse from passers-by because they could be seen through clear

The report also raised concern that only 28 per cent of detainees
reported positive treatment by escort staff, against a national
benchmark of 65 per cent.

Several detainees had missed meals during transit and escort staff
confirmed that refreshments and comfort breaks were not generally

Many detainees did not have legal representation, with many
experiencing high levels of uncertainty about status and legal

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