Halting Inspections: What’s Going on with UK’s Immigration Detention Centres?

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, discontinues annual inspections of immigration detention centres, raising concerns about the safeguarding of vulnerable detainees.

Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre. Author: DIAC images
Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre. Author: DIAC images
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LONDON (Bywire News) - In a turn of events that has us questioning accountability, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has reportedly put the brakes on annual inspections of immigration detention centres. The decision to halt the inspections came shortly after warnings were raised about vulnerable detainees being left unprotected. David Neal, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), took to The Guardian to share his concerns.

Just days prior to this decision, Neal had directly warned Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick that necessary protections for “vulnerable detainees” were proceeding at what he termed a "glacial pace". Now, does that mean our ministers are putting safeguarding on ice? Neal’s warnings fell on deaf ears; in fact, they seemed to speed up the decision to stop the inspections altogether.

This isn't just a bureaucratic stumble. A recent major inquiry into Brook House Immigration Removal Centre revealed disturbing conditions that could be described as "prison-like." Staff were accused of dehumanising and racist comments, while there was quick use of force against detainees.

Now, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Back in 2018, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid had actually commissioned annual ICIBI inspections to ensure vulnerable people in detention were safeguarded. Neal confirms he’s done two inspections since but says improvements are "proceeding at a glacial pace," suggesting there's a lack of will from the Home Office to make meaningful changes.

Neal himself is no stranger to dealing with detainees. As a brigadier in the Royal Military Police overseeing the detention of insurgents in Afghanistan, he said his soldiers acted with decency and respect under pressure. He finds it baffling that staff at a centre near Gatwick Airport should show cruelty when his soldiers did not. Neal’s term as ICIBI is up in March and, unlike his predecessors, won't see a second term, making us wonder whether critical voices are being silenced.

The Brook House inquiry report is a 711-page tome that took more than three years to complete. It found 19 instances where there was “credible evidence” of potential mistreatment that could violate human rights under European law. As of now, the Home Office is yet to comment on this matter.

In a world where we’re all striving for accountability, transparency and kindness, let’s not forget to hold our leaders to the same standards. A question remains unanswered: if we don’t inspect, how can we expect to protect?

(By Michael O'Sullivan)

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