Following the long awaited publication of the “Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons” conducted by Stephen Shaw, the former prisons and probation ombudsman, the Government has announced three key reforms.
Stephen Shaw’s report made 64 recommendations including the immediate closure of Cedars detention centre, a presumption against detention for victims of rape and other sexual or gender based violence, transsexuals and those with PTSD and Learning Difficulties, and the absolute exclusion from detention of pregnant women. He also recommended that the Home Office immediately consider an alternative to the current rule 35 mechanism for victims of torture, a reduction in the number of persons detained, and raised concerns about the mental health provision for detainees.
James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister said that the Government accepted “the broad thrust of his recommendations” and announced the following measures:
- The introduction of a new “adult at risk”category “with a clear presumption that people who are at risk should not be detained” including victims of sexual violence, individuals with mental health issues, pregnant women, those with learning difficulties, post-traumatic stress disorder and elderly people. There will also be a strengthening of processes for dealing with cases of torture, health issues and self-harm threats.
- The Centre for Mental Health will undertake a Mental Health needs assessment, which will report in March 2016.
- A “new approach to the case management of those detained, replacing the existing detention review process with a clear removal plan for all those in detention”. This would give “a stronger focus on and momentum towards removal” thus ensuring “that the minimum possible time is spent in detention before people leave the country”.
The Government refused to consider arbitrary time limits for detention, fearing “the potential abuse of the system”. Further details in response to the review will be included in the forthcoming Immigration Enforcement’s Business Plan for 2016/17.
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