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A SUPPOSEDLY independent watchdog that monitors Britain’s immigration detention centres faced heavy criticism today after it emerged that the organisation’s clerks are Home Office staff.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) describes itself as “a group of ordinary members of the public.”
Its unpaid members have “unrestricted access” to detention centres and can talk to any detainee at any time “out of sight and hearing of members of staff if necessary.”
Detainees can also “put in a confidential request to see a member of the IMB” if they want to raise concerns.
The board claims that “if something serious happens” at a detention centre, like a riot or death, then IMB members “may be called in to attend and observe the way in which the situation is handled.”
However following a freedom of information request by the Morning Star, it has now emerged that the board’s clerks are “provided centrally by the Home Office Immigration Enforcement (Detention and Escorting Services).”
The clerks provide services for up to 15 hours per month and have 22 different duties, including handling correspondence on behalf of the board and providing “relevant statistics for board meetings.”
Detention charity Medical Justice told the Star: “The IMB is one of the few bodies tasked with independent oversight over the daily operations in Immigration Removal Centres.”
“We are concerned that such direct involvement of Immigration Enforcement staff compromises this fragile independence.”
Their casework manager Theresa Schleicher said: “This is particularly worrying in light of the repeated revelations of abuse at detention centres.”
IMB publishes annual reports about conditions inside Britain’s network of eight detention centres, which are run by the Home Office.
The watchdog can also observe deportations, although it failed to raise concerns when the Home Office secretly used a military base for an expulsion flight in 2017.
A spokesperson for the board told the Star its members “take their independence and impartiality extremely seriously and carry out their roles with a high degree of professionalism.”
They said that “robust discussions are held by IMB members during their visits and within board meetings” and members asked the Home Office “tough questions.”
They added that clerks operate under “strict” instructions from the board and can be excluded from closed sessions if necessary.
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