Officials dismiss torture claims

Dover immigration removal centre
Dover immigration removal centre Photo: ITV Meridian

You've made improvements but more needs to be done, that's the results of a unannounced inspection at a Kent Immigration Removal Centre. According to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the site at Dover has made progress in key areas. But it's report did say it needed to give detainees more information and better support for their release.

It found officials were too dismissive of reports from detainees who claimed to be victims of torture. The so-called Rule 35 reports were poor, "often hand-written and difficult to read and did not contain photographs or body maps", the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said.

"Cases involving torture described scarring but lacked photographs or body maps," he said. "There were no judgments on whether scarring was consistent with the alleged method of abuse. For example, in a case where the detainee claimed to have been shot, there was no judgment on whether the scars were consistent with gunshot wounds."

Calling for the troubled UK Border Agency (UKBA) to urgently improve its response to such claims, Mr Hardwick said the replies were "dismissive and none had led to the release of a detainee".

Overall, the inspectors found the centre had improved in April since it was last inspected in May last year. But Mr Hardwick added: "The two key areas that still needed to be addressed were the poor quality of information provided by UKBA to detainees and the lack of adequate support to help detainees prepare for release or removal."

Keith Best, chief executive of campaign group Freedom from Torture, said:

"When it comes to the UKBA's efforts to fix the chronically dysfunctional rule 35 process, HMIP's verdict of 'prompt but dismissive' says it all.

"Parliament, which created rule 35, must take further action to hold the UKBA to account and ensure rule 35 is a meaningful safeguard for torture survivors wrongly detained in these detention centres."

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "Anyone believed to be a victim of torture is only detained in exceptional circumstances and is treated with the utmost sensitivity.

"Inspectors recognised that we have improved the way we deal with Rule 35 reports but there is more work to be done. We continue to tighten up the existing procedures and improve training for medical practitioners, caseworkers and staff working in removal centres."

The Home Office has released this statement:

"We welcome the report and its findings that progress had been made since the last full inspection of the centre in 2010.

"The inspectors found that the information given to new detainees had improved and we will continue to make improvements in the induction process for new arrivals."