The High Court has given Immigration detainees in prison permission to challenge the lack of safeguards to identify vulnerable people compared to detention centres. According to the Migration Observatory, on 31 March 2018, 358 foreign nationals were detained in prisons under immigration powers. Approximately 27,300 migrants entered detention in the UK in 2017 with just over a fifth being held for two months or more.
There are protections offered to those held in detention centres not available to those held in prisons under immigration powers. UnderDetention Centre Rules, all detainees are entitled to a full medical examination within 24 hours of arrival, with a view to identifying those who are not suitable for detention or require close monitoring (Rule 34); and detainees who claim to be suicidal or victims of torture, must be assessed by an independent medical practitioner, whose report should then be urgently reviewed by the Home Secretary who must then decide, within 48 hours, whether the person’s detention is appropriate (Rule 35).
According to Duncan Lewis, the solicitors representing the detainees, thesesafeguards ‘apply only to those in detention centres and don’t cover people detained in prisons under the Home Office’s immigration powers’.
They argue that the lack of equivalent safeguards is unlawful on the basis that it is unfair/unreasonable, discriminatory, and in breach of the Equality Act 2010. According to the claimants, the impact of the gap in safeguards is that the Home Secretary is unaware of the vulnerabilities of many detainees. Duncan Lewis argues that even in cases where the Home Secretary is made aware of potential vulnerable detainees, the Home Office have failed to adequately investigate how ongoing immigration detention is affecting them.