The UK Government’s hostile use of Immigration Detention Centres

By Harriet Morphy-Morris 

The UK government has continued to prioritise the use of immigration detention centres, despite a huge public backlash over the lack of welfare for those detained. The treatment got significantly worse during the first coronavirus lockdown, 19,000 people were placed in immigration detention centres across the UK, despite there being a lack of PPE, healthcare and social distancing measures.

The government chose to risk the health of detainees, their children and staff. In October hundreds were left stranded in Dungavel detention centre after a Covid-19 outbreak. Inadequate facilities, including overcrowding, contributed to the rapid spread of the virus. The number of detainees has significantly reduced over the last few years but the conditions which they live in has gotten worse. ‘Inmates’ have been subjected to over-crowding, unsanitary facilities and a lack of welfare support.

Campaigners are now warning of a surge in self-harm incidents, and The Independent has reported a 2000% rise in cases. The Home Office’s lack of emotional support for immigrants is apparent. There seems to be no safeguarding or facilities which can provide support for those dealing with the emotional stress of being separated from their families. This is backed by Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats acting leader, who says the system is in need of compassion:

“It is inhumane how this Government treats the people who are often fleeing persecution and war. “With some people being held for over two years in these centres, cut off from the outside world and fearing to return to their hostile nations, it is no wonder that self-harm is so prevalent.”

Home Office statistics recorded 474 self-harm related incidents in 2019, in March of this year there was a total of 149, but it is unknown how many cases were left unrecorded due to the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as the Home Office has potentially broken the law by failing to identify victims of human trafficking. The in-adequate screening of asylum seekers failed to identify if any had been victims of trafficking before they were placed in detention. This alarming information, highlighted by a High Court judge, is further evidence that the government favours the quick administrative process, yet fails to protect their basic human rights.


A Breach of basic human rights:

The process of being forced into detention is dehumanising and traumatic, especially for those who have lived in the UK for years and have family here. Individuals placed without access to community support and safeguarding goes against their rights as it is a risk to both physical and mental health.

In-between August and September, during the peak of the coronavirus, the charity No Deportations recorded that there were 141 hunger strikes in Brook House detention centre. The campaigners highlight the right of inmates to choose to hunger strike, a right to self-determination. This highlights the level of hostility people are choosing to go without food, for dangerous amounts of time, in protest of the poor conditions they are subjected to.

The Immigration Act states it is illegal to detain unaccompanied children for longer than 24hours. There has been an increase of neglect and lack of care towards children being left. A process which would no doubt cause massive stress for anybody, let alone a child. In October, a government watchdog unveiled the unacceptable conditions in which children were being left.

Detention action states children were locked in rooms with unknown adults, left cold and hungry and again had no health screening. Often referred to as Priti Patel’s hostile Britain, the UK’s immigration system is crumbling under a poorly managed system, one which has let down thousands of asylum-seeking children.




The views, information, or opinions expressed in the blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Refugee Rights Europe and its employees. Refugee Rights Europe invites a spectrum of viewpoints to feature on its blog in order to highlight different aspects of the human rights crisis facing refugees and displaced people in Europe, with the hope of generating discussion conducive to constructive solutions.









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