Liberty slams ‘unprecedented’ Home Office guidelines for immigration detainees

New guidelines will allow immigration detainees to be put in solitary confinement for being “stubborn”, a leading human rights campaign group has said.

Liberty condemned the “unprecedented” new Home Office guidelines which it said would also allow segregation of detainees at immigration removal centres for periods longer than 14 days.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture has previously warned that indefinite solitary confinement for longer than 15 days should be banned because studies have found that “lasting mental health damage is caused after a few days of social isolation”.

The new detention services order sets out the first guidelines for Home Office staff on the use of solitary confinement and segregation at immigration removal centres, where failed asylum seekers and other people appealing deportation can be held alongside foreign criminals.

The organisation’s policy officer Sara Ogilvie said: “Limitless immigration detention is a dark stain on our country’s human rights record.

“Adding the cruel practice of solitary confinement to the mix is a grave injustice which risks causing serious harm to innocent and vulnerable individuals.

“But instead of abolishing this inhumane system, the Home Office’s latest order would compound the problem by authorising the segregation of those who are deemed stubborn or suffer mental health problems, even where confinement may be life-threatening.

“The UK Government should be ashamed at its failure to afford even the most basic dignity and security to those within its care.”

The guidance obtained by Liberty states that a detainee can be placed in “temporary confinement” if they are “refractory or violent”.

It states that “the definition of a refractory detainee is someone who is stubborn, unmanageable or disobedient”.

Separately, a detainee can be “removed from association” with others “where it appears necessary in the interests of security or safety”.

The powers will initially be authorised by the Home Secretary in the case of contracted out detention centres or centre managers for those under central control.

Temporary confinement can be extended beyond a three day maximum and removal from association beyond a 14 day maximum with the approval of the area Immigration Enforcement manager.

Detainees dealt with under the two rules will be checked on once an hour by an “assigned officer”.

Liberty claimed stronger safeguards are in place for criminals in jail because they must be seen by a doctor or registered nurse for a health screening within two hours of segregation.

It is understood that guidance for the operation of the rules is still being drafted.

A Home Office spokesman said: “It is important that maintaining safety and security of the detention facility is balanced against showing due regard for the dignity and welfare of the detainees.

“Detainees are only separated from others in exceptional circumstances. This is done for reasons of safety, either their own or for others, for security reasons or when an individual is being violent.

“Temporary confinement is never used as a punishment.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tim Ockenden / PA Wire.