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MEN in Britain’s largest immigration removal centre have been detained for years, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
The watchdog’s report on the Harmondsworth facility next to Heathrow Airport, published today, reveals that one man had been locked up for four-and-a-half years. Another 23 men had been held for more than a year.
Planned deportations had not happened due to late legal challenges or a lack of travel documents, while some detentions were prolonged by Home Office failings.
In 90 per cent of cases, the Home Office accepted evidence that detainees had been tortured prior to coming to Britain but maintained detention regardless, the report says.
Harmondsworth is the largest immigration jail of its kind in Europe, holding up to 676 men.
The prolonged holding of people in immigration prisons without an end in sight have sparked calls for a time limit. Britain is the only country in the EU with indefinite detention.
Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “The continuing lack of a time limit on detention meant that some men had been held for excessively long periods.”
Inspectors said that many areas in Hardmondsworth were dirty, some were mouse-infested, and bedbugs were endemic.
“There was evidence of an increase in the availability of drugs, including the psychoactive substance known as spice,” they added.
Mr Clarke said: “Detainees, many identified as vulnerable, were not being adequately safeguarded … Mental-health needs were often not met. Detainees were subject to some disproportionate security restrictions and living conditions were below decent standards.”
Detainees were routinely handcuffed when attending outside appointments without “evidence of risk,” the report says.
Mr Clarke concluded that the centre has not improved “in the areas of safety and respect” even after a third consecutive inspection.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott visited Yarl’s Wood removal centre last month, where female detainees have been on hunger strike over indefinite detentions and cruel conditions.
She said in response to the HMIP report: “The government claims there is no indefinite immigration detention — but holding people for years on end without a release date amounts to exactly that.
“The immigration detention system is clearly broken and Labour in government will address this chaos.”
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