Migrants held in 'unacceptable, degrading' conditions, UK inspectors find

16 December 2021, 00:03 | Updated: 16 December 2021, 07:17

Migrants are still being held in "very poor" conditions in the UK inspectors have said
Migrants are still being held in "very poor" conditions in the UK inspectors have said. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Home Office has come under fire after inspectors report migrants are being held in "very poor" conditions with little support despite promises from the Government to improve facilities.

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Migrant detention facilities were described as "inadequate" by inspectors who raised concerns over the "increasingly cold, unacceptable and degrading" conditions that people were being forced to stay in.

Findings published on Thursday said women who said they had been raped by smugglers were "not adequately supported", whilst lone children were being held with unrelated adults.

A separate assessment of conditions found injuries, including serious burns, were not detected by staff or properly treated.

Highlighting one case, the report stated: "A 16-year-old girl who had fuel burns on her legs and had been at Tug Haven for two days wearing wet clothes did not have her injuries detected until she was admitted to the KIU.

"By this time the seam of her clothes had become embedded into the burns and a medic reported that the girl was likely to be scarred for life."

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Both the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Dover and Heathrow Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) - made up of volunteers tasked by ministers to report on conditions - visited migrant detention facilities in the last three months.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said: "Our last inspection in September 2020 found that these facilities were badly equipped to meet their purpose.

"Following that inspection, we were assured by the Home Office that rapid action would be taken to improve both strategic planning and the conditions in which detainees were held.

"However, despite some limited progress, detainees, including large numbers of unaccompanied children, continued (in 2021) to experience very poor treatment and conditions.

"It is unclear why there had been such delays following the assurances that we were given by the Home Office after our last inspection.

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"Leaders told us of difficulties in co-ordinating the various partners whose co-operation was required, but this was not a sufficient explanation for why, one year later, we still found people being held for even longer in conditions that were so inadequate."

National IMB chairman Dame Anne Owers, who was so concerned by the findings from her counterparts in Kent that she raised them with Home Office ministers, said: "It is clear that urgent action is required."

The findings described families with young children among the many to spend more than 24 hours in tents when arriving at the initial processing area in Tug Haven, Dover.

There were "significant" safeguarding concerns over unaccompanied children being "regularly held together" with other men, women and families in the same area.

According to the findings: "Inspectors were concerned by inadequate follow-up care for two women who said they had been raped and another who said she had been sold into domestic servitude."

IMBs visited Tug Haven on the "least busy day" between October 8 and 11 when 400 people slept there overnight.

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Latest figures show UK authorities rescued or intercepted 36 people from one event on Wednesday.

Other concerns were raised over "increasingly cold conditions", particularly on double-decker buses sometimes used for sleeping.

The findings also raised problems with Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre which "lacked either the infrastructure or staff" to support the arrivals.

IMBs found on one night, four coaches arrived and detainees had to sleep on the floor without proper sanitary arrangements.

They described the conditions as "unacceptable and degrading but unavoidable, given the lack of regard to the centre's ability to process arrivals".

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.