In May 2018, the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons published a report following an inspection of a charter removal of asylum seekers by the Home Office’s Third Country Unit (“TCU”). This was the first inspection of this facility. The report found that operational practice is falling short of the required standards in respect of the unjustified use of force against asylum seeker transferees.
The role of the TCU is to manage the transfer of asylum seekers to and from the UK under the Dublin Convention. The Dublin Convention is an EU law which determines which EU Member State is responsible for examining and considering an asylum claim under the Geneva Convention, and allows EU Member States to transfer an asylum seeker to the responsible state.
Many detainees are returned to third countries using scheduled flights – however, in February 2017 the Home Office started to use charter aircraft to remove groups of detainees. The report inspected the facilities at which these detainees were held.
It detailed a serious level of concern over the removal of the detainees with the inspectors reporting that the TCU operation was being conducted with the use of restraint which was unnecessary and excessive. Nearly all detainees were placed in waist restraint belts for the entire journey. In many cases, restraints were not necessary, proportionate or reasonable.
Additionally, the inspectors’ report states that the staff escorting the detainees on the flights were briefed incorrectly and were led to believe that detainees were high-risk, when the majority of passengers had no history of being disruptive. The staff were reportedly using disrespectful language and outnumbered the detainees approximately 3 to 1.
On the back of the evidence provided by this inspection, the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons concluded that operational practice is still falling short of the standards aspired to by the Immigration Minister in response to concerns expressed in 2017 by the Independent Monitoring Board.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said: “We regularly inspect other detention settings where far more disruptive and challenging behaviour is managed without such physical restraints. Clearly, some senior-level intervention is required to ensure that the situation is rectified without delay”.
A fully copy of the report can be viewed here.
Should you require further information or assistance regarding immigration detention, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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