This week, Bail Immigration for Detainees (BID) published a new report ‘Denial of Justice: the hidden use of UK prisons for immigration detention‘.
As of 31 December 2013, 2,796 people were held in immigration detention in immigration removal centres, in short-term holding facilities, and in pre-departure accommodation, but a further 1214 people were being held as immigration detainees in the prison estate.
Being detained and losing one’s liberty is bad enough when a person is held in an immigration removal centre, but immigration detention in a prison is unfair and unjust from the start. Detainees held in the prison estate suffer from multiple, systemic, and compounding barriers to accessing justice, with an often devastating effect on their ability to progress their immigration case, seek independent scrutiny of their ongoing detention from the courts and tribunals, and seek release from detention, as well as on their physical and mental wellbeing.
This report lays out evidence for these practical barriers, which include but are not limited to:
- no automatic access to on-site immigration legal advice like that provided for detainees in IRCs;
- the existence of financial disincentives to legal aid providers who wish to work with detainees in prisons under current Legal Aid Agency contracts; immigration detainees routinely held under serving prisoner regimes;
- prison regimes and restrictions that preclude the holding of mobile phones,
- inadequate access to wing telephones during working hours, and a slow internal postal system in prisons, which delay and frustrate timely communication with legal advisers, the courts, and the Home Office;
- lack of internet access in prisons which hinders legal research for unrepresented detainees, and makes cooperation with the Home Office redocumentation process very difficult;
- Home Office escorting failures resulting in failure to produce detainees at bail hearings;
- time limited videolink connections to prisons for bail hearings; delays in receipt of Home Office bail summaries as a result of slow internal mail in prisons;
- loss of grants of Home Office Section 4 (1)(c ) bail accommodation as a result of production failures and listing delays, sometimes after several months waiting for a grant of a bail address;
- Home Office failure to provide travel warrants enabling detainees held in prisons and produced in person at hearing centres to reach their Home Office Section 4(1)(c) bail address if granted bail;
- failure to fit electronic tags within the prescribed two working days resulting in extended detention in prison.