12:45, March 15 190 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-15 12:45:12
End the inhumanity of immigration detention

The damning inspection report on Harmondsworth immigration removal centre (Detention of torture victims attacked by prison inspectors, 13 March) is a reminder of the inhumanity of immigration detention. The report mentions a self-inflicted death of a detainee. His name was Marcin Gwozdzinski, a Polish man who died two days before his 28th birthday. Fellow detainees told the Guardian that Marcin had been begging for help but staff did nothing.

Last year saw the highest number of deaths of immigration detainees on record, with 11 deaths since January 2017. The UK is the only country in Europe without a time limit on detention, despite national and international monitoring bodies, charities, and a parliamentary inquiry recommending a 28-day limit.

Indefinite detention and the associated anxiety and distress has a severely detrimental impact on the psychological and physical health of detainees. The majority of detainees are released back into the community, making this damaging practice all the more senseless. Despite conflicting with international human rights standards, the use of prison and prison-like conditions for detainees, as the inspectorate found in Harmondsworth, continues to be widespread.

The ever-rising death toll and suffering, as highlighted by the women currently on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood, is the human consequence of the UK’s unjust detention system. It is clear that the government’s policy designed to protect vulnerable adults is not working. Amber Rudd must immediately release vulnerable detainees, end indefinite detention, and begin to phase out the use of immigration detention altogether. Otherwise the deaths and harm will continue.

Deborah Coles Director, Inquest

Celia Clarke Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID)

Emma Ginn Director, Medical Justice

Martha Spurrier Director, Liberty

HM chief inspector of prisons has highlighted again the scandal of torture survivors detained at Harmondsworth. The Home Office has known of this problem for years, yet nothing seems to change. It is hardly reassuring when a recent immigration minister claims that asylum seekers are not detained, despite overwhelming evidence that the supposed safeguards to prevent this are chronically dysfunctional.

We know from our clinical work that detention re-traumatises torture survivors and reactivates the sense of powerlessness that accompanies torture. Indefinite detention has a devastating impact on them and other vulnerable detainees. Rates of mental illness and self-harm are already high and rising in these settings. In 2017 there were six suicides and an estimated 528 incidents of serious self-harm in immigration removal centres – compared with an already disturbing three suicides and 341 incidents of serious self-harm in 2016.

Stephen Shaw’s 2016 Home Office-commissioned review found safeguards for vulnerable immigration detainees were inadequate and that detention was used too often and for too long. Instead of fixing the problems, the government has made things worse by weakening specific policies we won years ago to stop torture survivors being detained. It is trying to ram further retrograde policies through parliament right now, but we will fight them every inch of the way.

Sonya Sceats

Chief executive, Freedom from Torture

In the UK and Republic of Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123

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