Immigration detention conditions slammed. Larne plans move ahead.

With the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) moving ahead with plans to open a short-term “immigration removal centre” in Larne, concerns were heightened today with the publication of a damning report by HM Inspector of Prisons into Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre and Short Term Holding Facility near Heathrow.

Colnbrook is operated by private company Serco on behalf of UKBA and is just the latest such centre to be the focus of significant criticism in a HM Inspector of Prisons report. A whole series of reports from the Inspector outline similar concerns about other UKBA Short Term Holding Facilities (STHF) such as that planned for Larne.

It is worth remembering, as previously noted on Slugger and as today’s report does, that:

detainees were not held because they had been charged with a criminal offence and had not been detained through normal judicial processes.

In total, HM Inspector of Prisons makes 191 recommendations to change current practices at the Colnbrook centre. In contrast, they list only two examples of good practice.

Among the issues raised in the report are:
– safety concerns, compounded by a significant drug problem;
– detainees in STHF were locked in cramped conditions in their rooms for up to 23 hours a day;
– the STHF was an inappropriate place to hold women;
– two-thirds of detainees said that they had felt unsafe;
– too little use of interpretation;
– no evidence of any systematic attempt to identify the needs of minority groups;
– resources devoted to the welfare service were being reduced;
– there was excessive use of demeaning anti-ligature clothing; and
– disproportionate security responses, with a high use of force.

In 2008, the Council of Europe produced a detailed report on asylum and immigration in the UK, noting:

The Commissioner is concerned at the UKBA’s public commitment to expanding the immigration detention facilities. He urges the authorities to consider the possibility of drastically limiting migrants’ administrative detention.

The governent has ignored the recommendation.

So, if and when the Larne centre opens, will it boast the same poor conditions as other UKBA detention facilities? Does anyone care?

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  • Anna M

    I’ve opposed the opening of an immigrant detention centre at Larne from the outset, supporting the Refugee Action Campaign against it.
    As an immigration lawyer, who has visited many of the grim and inhumane immigration detention centres in the UK, but also as a concerned citizen, I came to the conclusion some time ago that the best solution is open borders, and I think it’s high time that anyone who does care makes democratic arguments for immigration controls to be abolished. All the time that a population supports border controls, there will be an easy justification for non-consensual removals and the means to those ends, which include indefinite administrative detention and the use of force as highlighted above. I believe it’s time for the utlimately racist restrictions on people’s human freedom of movement to be thoroughly questioned and I envisage a much more human world when immigrants can no longer be locked up, subjected to force by state agents and told to ‘go home’.

  • Pat Why did Amnesty locally never ask these questions about Castlereagh?

    There has been consistant vilolations of the right to a fair trial in NI. Where are Amnesty and NIHRC in these kind of matters. There are now fewer Non Jury Trials than there once was and that is being hailed as an improvement when the opposite is more likeley; in that the fewer such cases increases the stigma for any defendants subject to such treatment. Currently an adverse inference can be drawn against the accused that they pose a risk to a jury AND they have no right to challenge that or given details as to what the nature of the risk is.

    Restrictions on the right to silence (pre-charge) have been well established now. Where were Amnesty and NIHRC when the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2009/2087 came into effect on 5 October 2009 which allows for post-charge questioning. As with Art 3 Criminal Evidence Order(NI) 1988 where the term questioning is misleading –in that no specific question need be asked as the ‘onus’ is on the accused to volunteer information then the same is likely with the remove of ‘post-charge’ right to silence. The huge danger here is that the Prosecution need only ask an unexpected question where if the defendant can answer –is then realying upon an answer they had not volunteered before Trial.

    The Prosecution are the deciders on the right to a jury trial –so if they have a weak case they can obviously bolster their chances of success by making false cliams of jury tampering.

    I have produced indelible evidence of Prosecution corruption, ie, of “coaching” Military Witnesses, perjury and tampering with evidence with intention to pervert the course of justice. David Ford is currently doing his best to cover-up and Amnesty and NIHRC look the other way.

    Meanwhile your concern is on the possibilities of what might happen in Larne as aposed to the standards of Criminal Justice in NI today?

  • Reader

    Anna M: I came to the conclusion some time ago that the best solution is open borders, and I think it’s high time that anyone who does care makes democratic arguments for immigration controls to be abolished.
    So, if you win that election, will the UK be the first country in the world with open borders? Or are there others already?

  • Reader

    Christy Walsh: The huge danger here is that the Prosecution need only ask an unexpected question where if the defendant can answer –is then realying upon an answer they had not volunteered before Trial.
    Simple rule – if you are innocent, tell the truth. If you are guilty, lie. If it’s a trick question the prosecution should get a rap on the knuckles.

  • pippakin

    Open borders is an excellent idea, problem is how affordable is it?

    It seems to me that if everyone is allowed in unskilled wages, such as they are, would collapse and the benefits system would quickly follow. If that happened there would be terrible anger directed at immigrants and government.

    Its not about colour, religion or race, its about affordability.

    But look on the bright side, just think of the unemployed immigration lawyers with no unemployment benefit to rely on, they would have to invent another ism.

  • Reader telling the truth is no protection for the dangers I have highlighted. I told the truth and signed statements but the Trial Judge drew an adverse inference against me for remaining silent and he convicted me on that as his “main criticism” of my case ( )

    In 2002 the Court of Appeal found the Trial Judge to have acted unlawfully but my wrongful conviction was upheld regardless;
    “… if a defendant has been denied a fair trial it will almost be inevitable that the conviction will be regarded unsafe, the present case in our view constitutes an exception to the general rule. … the conviction is to be regarded as safe, even if a breach of Article 6(1) were held to have occurred in the present case.” Per Lord Carswell, R v Walsh (2002) NICA 1

    The dangers of removing the right to silence for the period between being charged and put on Trial –means that an impossible burden is put upon an accused to ‘predict’ what the Prosecution might ask –if you fail to predict what is in the mind of a Prosecutor but nevertheless successfully answer his questions from the witness box –then an adverse inference can lawfully be mdrawn against him/her. That is an impossible burden on any defendant –so what if you can then appeal, appeal and appeal again -and win at each stage –I am 21 years trying to clear my name and every time I get close the rules are changed again and again.

    And Amnesty NI and the NIHRC participate as silent witnesses –but yet in this thread Pat makes an emotive appeal “Does anyone care?” about something that has not or may not occur. Is that about human rights or a means of diverting attention from real and current human rights abuses in NI?

  • Anna M

    So, if you win that election, will the UK be the first country in the world with open borders? Or are there others already?

    Well, think back to the abolition of the similarly racist and hierarchical system of slavery, for example. It was abolished in different countries at different times. The slave trade wasn’t wiped out overnight, but, democratically, people told their own governments that enough was enough and so things changed.

    Anyone interested in the economic arguments for open borders would do worse than reading Philippe Legrain’s ‘Immigrants. Your country needs them’.

    I wish Amnesty would engage with these arguments, though I do understand they have a rather legalistic case-by-case approach to immigration challenges (similar to the one I have to follow as a lawyer, but, thankfully, not as an activist).

  • Anna M, border restrictions are not always borne out of any racist motives though racism can be incidental to such controls, so your representations may on occassion be flawed (I dunno?). There are good reason for borders as much as you might like to see people come and go as they please 1) people in a given area must also be protected from the consequences of overwhelming influx of, say, economic migrants. 2) as has been seen in refugee cases the host countries infrastructures and resources cannot cope and what level of coping they do manage is generally dependant upon economic and resource support from elsewhere.

    While the idea that people should come and go at will might sound quint it can be neither practical nor on occassion have much regard for the rights of those whose livihoods might be lost due to over accumulation of large numbers of migrants/immigrants. In general large numbers would be inclined to gravitate to more affluent regions, or where housing, education and human rights are of higher standard.

  • Cynic2

    “I came to the conclusion some time ago that the best solution is open borders”

    You are entitled to your views. Unfortunately the majority of your fellow citizens don’t share them and regard immigration as a huge problem and the Government was elected in part to curb it. This amens kicking out illegal immigrants

    PS have you found a state yet (one that actually functions as a state) that has completely open borders?

  • Cynic2

    PPS Anna … isn’t it racist to brand the majority of your fellow citizens as racist because they disagree with your views?

  • Why is there now free movement of capital, and free movement of goods, but not free movement of people?

  • davenewman

    There is only free movement of capital, goods, services and people (workers) within EU member states. People from outside the EU have to have a visa to visit/work in any given member state and they cannot move from member state to member state –though there is a special visa which can be applied for for non EU citizens which allows EU wide travel.


    There is a dippy argument on freedom and enlightenment which views anyone who do not see the world as they do as being racist, bigots or something generally negative. They fail to see that a border check can stop peadophiles or other scumbags from obsconding one country to start afresh someplace else –bad enough they often can in Thailand or Philopines. But god forbid should you commit a blasphemy against these human righst activists –I have found few of them ever really are -there is probably areason they always are on about those whos human rights are being violated in far off places –they don’t actually have to deal with them up close -the NIHRC is perfect example of a bunch of bored middle class housewives (of whatever gender) who would be horrified to have to dirty their hands with real people -put them off their lavish luncheons –waste of good catering money.

    I realise the people who brought human rights to NI in most cases were women from the Falls, or Shankill, with buggies or toddlers standing in the rain with placards outside prisons or court houses and none of these middle class ‘do gooders’.

    There is a case to be had for Border guards and others who might abuse their powers or functions but that is something else.

  • Anna M

    Racist is the system of immigration control, which allows those of one race/ nationality to travel freely and set up home here, but places innumerable hurdles in the way of those from another race/ nationality who wish to do so.

    Christy, the British government would love us to believe that the raison d’etre of border control is to exclude or remove paedophiles. Indeed, when they are introducing another immigration control, they often put out press releases about some migrant criminal offenders in order, cynically, to try to garner popular support for new restrictions to freedom of movement. In reality, immigration controls scarcely work that way: they make it difficult, more expensive, or impossible, for foreign partners or family members to join or stay with their folk here; they cause those seeking sanctuary to have to brave life-threatening journeys to find a way in; they prevent or problematize employers or colleges here from taking on foreign national employees and they justify a whole range of surveillance and checks for citizens and non-citizens alike to enforce the visa and foreign national identity scheme. Worst of all, in my view, and I think the author of this article likely agrees with me on this, immigration controls criminalize migrants for a range of offences and/ or subject them to indefinite detention in the inhumane conditions publicized above.

  • fordprefect

    Do you just come on here to try to annoy people?

  • fordprefect

    Latest I’ve heard is that in the case of Gorman and McKinney (they were both cleared on appeal) is that when they applied for comp, the government wanted to deduct money from this for their “board and lodgings” while in gaol!

  • Anna M I have no doubt that border control is as much about treating people negatively than providing any assistance as a matter of policy –that is not grounds for all borders to be thrown open. It is however grounds for a more humane system, accountibility, and, prosecutions or disciplinary actions where warranted. I would imagine that if given the choice between borders being left open or the current state of affairs most people would opt for the current state of affairs. If on the otherhand people were given the option for the current state of affairs or for less hostile and physically abusive treatment of immigrants then most people would prefer that.

    I have no doubts people are being illtreated at the borders and that should be addressed but I have no inclination that you are suggesting a better alternative.

  • fordprefect –yeah they charged the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 board and lodgings as well.

  • fordprefect

    Yeah, I thought maybe a way round this would be to say, take out the screws wages and the security costs to keep someone in prison, who should not have been there in the first place and who suffered a mis-carriage of justice like you and I did.

  • fordprefect maybe you could charge them for depriving you from food to the standard and variety that you had been accustomed to? I knew about the Birmingham 6 have been charged and so I once asked a govenor if I could be moved to a better cell with a view and the balance could be taken out of the compensation owed.

  • fordprefect

    LOL, good idea. Maybe a cell with a sea view, or a cell with astounding views of the surrounding countryside!

  • Na, I specifically requested one offshore and someplace sunny!!

  • Reader

    fordprefect: Reader. Do you just come on here to try to annoy people?
    Not as such. I just hope to jolt people out of their comfort zone by looking at their point from a different perspective. It’s surprising how many people have assumptions so well hidden they don’t even realise it. But observation suggests that wee trick does tend to annoy republicans in particular.

  • Reader “It’s surprising how many people have assumptions so well hidden they don’t even realise it. You mean like those really wild assumptions you made here

    No basis to any of them –you ran away to post another day and so here you are……. funny guy you are!!

  • Reader

    Anna M: Well, think back to the abolition of the similarly racist and hierarchical system of slavery, for example. It was abolished in different countries at different times. The slave trade wasn’t wiped out overnight, but, democratically, people told their own governments that enough was enough and so things changed.
    You didn’t actually answer the question.
    Anyway – the UK has a GDP per head that is 3.5 times the world average. At least 90% of the world population lives in countries with a lower GDP per head. And if you succeed in opening the borders, a lot of them are coming here. Do you think the benefit system can hope? How about housing provision? Do you think your career will keep you in the manner to which you have become accustomed (central heating, etc), once you have succeeded in opening the borders?

  • Reader

    Christy Walsh: Reader telling the truth is no protection for the dangers I have highlighted. I told the truth and signed statements but the Trial Judge drew an adverse inference against me for remaining silent
    Justice is a vitally important issue in general, and an intense personal issue for you as well. So I will try to avoid much of my usual offhand flippancy. Even so – remaining silent wasn’t one of the options in the advice I offered. I do recall there was a change in the law under New Labour that allowed the court to make inferences from a defendant’s choice not to answer a question. Your defence should certainly have warned you that the traditional option “whatever you say, say nothing” was dangerously outdated. Instead of complaining about the prosecution, could you base your appeal on complaining about the defence?

  • Reader

    Christy Walsh: No basis to any of them –you ran away to post another day and so here you are……. funny guy you are!!
    I didn’t realise we had an appointment. I have now gone back to that thread and explained my reasoning. Perhaps now you can go back and finally say what sort of march you might consider joining in future. In particular, who you might be ready to commemorate.

  • Reader I appreciate your self caution in regard to my position. The right to silence was done away with (1988) in NI, which was long before it occured in England & Wales. I know you were not advising silence what I was saying is that your belief that if you tell the truth then you will be alright –that is not true.

    Here, and in regard to my own arrest, there is no automatic right to legal advice and in my case I first saw a solicitor 52 hours after my arrest. Nevertheless, I co-operated at the scene (cops and soldiers testified to that) I made statements from first interrogation at Castlereagh and signed copies of my statements where submitted to the Trial Judge –but he still drew an adverse inference against me for remaining silent.

    So on this issue I nor my defense lawyers had done anything wrong but the Trial Judge and subsequent Courts afterwards did do wrong –but that made no difference to me.

    Now currently there is an onus on accused persons to volunteer information up until the Trial starts. Any shrewd Prosecutor could with little thought think up a question in such a way to catch anyone unexpectedly that if the Defendant can answer it correctly he falls foul of not having mentioned it before the Trial. This can be the most innocent of things not necessarily having any obvious connection to the charge.

    I don’t know if you heard of an English case called Stefan Kiszko. He was proved to be a completely innocent man of rape and murder, DNA cleared him after 25 years being in jail along with another fact that it was known to be medically at time of his arrest that he was unable to produce sperm.

    He made a statement and the court convicted him drawing an adverse inference against him on basis of what the Judges said ‘he was cunning enough to know what to leave out of his statement.’ It never occured to the judges that an innocent man simply might not know some things to tell police during interrogation.

  • Anna M

    This will have to be my last post on this thread, but I’m sure that, when slavery was abolished, there was a lot of hand-wringing by people who said ‘This will do damage to our economy’, ‘Our society will change’ and ‘The poor will no longer be in their place’. Before you say it, I’m not saying that the system of immigration control is directly comparable to the system of slavery, but it is a system that perpetuates great social and economic inequalities, enormous human suffering across the globe and curtails freedoms for many, just because of where they have been born.
    Therefore, I think the right question to ask first are not pragmatic ones but rather the moral/ political one – am I in favour of open borders? If you think that some immigration control is necessary and that, inevitably, there will then have to be some forcible measures used by the State against people who want to stay to make them leave, then even if you advocate reform of the current immigration system, you agree much more with the government than with me.
    If you favour open borders you may be interested in my posts on this debate and other human freedom issues over at the ‘Belfast and Beyond’ Amnesty website. I’d recommend the wonderful song ‘Ouvrez les frontiers’ by Tiken Jah Fakoly for some great, lyrical advocacy for open borders.

  • pippakin

    There may be some slavers who said ” ‘This will do damage to our economy’, ‘Our society will change’ and ‘The poor will no longer be in their place’.”

    But, there were a lot of people saying it was an economic decision, that keeping people, even in hovels, even half starved and beaten, all year round and forever was more expensive than letting those people find and pay for their own homes, food, clothing etc and only employ them when needed.

    It was indeed an ideological imperative for some but it was access to cheap labour for others.

  • Anna M

    Your slavery argument is a non-runner as justification for throwing open boarders –Slaves were already within the borders. In banning slavery the slave status merely changed to that of the lowest paid employees of their former Slave Masters. In many cases former slaves merely exercised their freedom by working for a neighbouring Slave Masters. While the other Slave Masters slaves took up employment and residence in the hovels vacated by other former slaves. Other former slaves left what are now the USA. There is no comparrisson to be made with opening borders to the world at large.

  • I only us USA as example and not definitive of where use of slavery was practiced.

  • fordprefect

    Where Readers argument falls down (i.e. remaining silent) is, that I never seen a solicitor until AFTER I was charged, after 3 days of the usual in Castlereagh. So there wasn’t anybody there to tell me to either talk or remain silent. I read your link to the BS march blog and Reader (as usual) took what I said out of context and turned it round to his/her own twisted way of thinking. When I said yesterday that I think Reader only comes on here to try to annoy people he/she more or less admitted it. Maybe we’re better off ignoring him/her.

  • fordprefect I think Reader makes the same mistake that many people make regarding police questioning, “I will tell the truth and everything will be cleared up.” I started out that way myself so I was no different to his reasoning –I now have 21 years of experience that telling police the truth is no surety of not going to jail.

    He/she also overlooks what the consequnces are when people, such as you, have been denied legal advice. Readers assumption is that only guilty people need legal advice and if you are innocent then you have no worries. If that were true then why have Trail process at all if we could determine that asking for a lawyer equates to an admission of guilt? There are a lot of people think that way –one need only ask the Human Rights Commission for help –those people have scalded me for daring to approach them.

    Sad to say it but NI is never really going to change when so many don’t mind injustice happening to this one or that one –and it only matters when it affects their lives or their political grouping. I realise the RUC were never the problem, the Courts and peoples prejudice is what put innocent people away –if the RUC did then it was only incidental through their contribution to the system.

  • Patrick Corrigan: I notice you started this blogg, possibly expecting the usual agreements and disagreements? I mean who dare blasphem the human rights diety of NI? Hogwash. I have responded to your blogg in reasoned and logical manner can we draw an adverse inference from your silence and for having apparently diserted your own blogg?

    Two contributions of mine of particular import were made on 29 January 2011 at 9:36 am, and later on, 29 January 2011 at 10:37 am.

  • fordprefect

    Spot on, but the RUC were part and parcel of what was called the “conveyor belt system”, they beat the “confession” out of you and a “judge” accepts that as gospel and dispatches you to gaol in the blink of an eye.

  • fordprefect –yes the RUC are responsible for their actions –i didn’t mean to absolve them in the way that reads. Police forces around the world overstep their powers or want governments to give them more and more powers –what keep police abuses and excesses to minimum are the courts –in NI the courts made it easy for police to kill, beat or violate human rights –we often blame the police because we see them on the front line as they take away our rights but they only do so, so far as the courts, and politicians allowed them too -the RUC were disbanded but not the judges who excused and fudged on our rights so the Police could continue doing as they were supposed to.

  • Christy, Anna et al, I actually wrote this blog on Tuesday, the day that the HM Inspector of Prisons’ report on the immigration centre actually was published. It apparently got caught up in an approvals traffic jam with Mick and only saw the Slugger light of day late on Friday. Since then I’ve been a bit busy with family matters and am only getting back to the blogging coal-face now (rather than having ‘diserted’ (sic) my post, as was suggested).

    Anyway, Christy – if you want to take up your case with Amnesty, I would be happy to direct you to my colleague at Amnesty’s International Secretariat who deals with NI matters. This is related to the question you pose initially about why Amnesty locally may not have taken up an issue. This is down to the AI ‘Work on own country rule’. Here’s the official glossary explanation: ‘The principle intended to establish an objective distance between the Amnesty activist and the human rights concern. Amnesty groups must not ask for, assess, or act upon information about individual cases in their own country.’

    Anna, the idea of ‘a world without borders’ is truly an admirable one. Personally I think that this will come to pass some day (although, probably not for a very long time) and, meanwhile, it would be good to move towards via freer migration.

    In terms of Amnesty’s approach – I’d say it’s less “case by case” and more “Convention by Convention”. Amnesty works to put in place good human rights protections by lobbying for a strong international human rights framework, and then it campaigns to ensure that the standards set down in those Conventions are adhered to. There is no Convention that I know of – and no likelihood of one – which establishes a right to migrate wherever one likes.
    So, if you want Amnesty to take up a pro-“open borders” policy, you should advocate it within that organisation. Amnesty has the benefit of an internal democracy and members and local, student and school AI groups can champion new campaign directions by getting their ideas backed at national section AGMs and subsequently at the biannual international council meeting. I think the likelihood of AI members worldwide deciding to campaign for “open borders” is not strong, but you never know until you ask.

    Meanwhile, I would still welcome comment on the actual subject matter of the blog: the proposed centre in Larne and the woeful conditions in many other such UKBA facilities.

  • Pat Amnesty is well aware of my case but that was not my point. You posted about something that has not happened in Larne yet I countered with things that have and you make this emotional plea “Does anyone care?”. Your reason why Amnesty blows off cases such as mine, well, for that you direct me to the handbook. My case is not an isolated case and another man on this thread has disclosed that his took some 31 years to resolve –we are not alone –but Amnesty you say, according to the Manual, cannot become involved in local issues -I find that very self serving means of bowing out –you seemed to break the rules when it comes to suggesting that human rights may be violated someday in Larne? But that is a clean shot you can take, there is no dealing with real people and no political conflicts, and Amnesty NI looks squeeky clean because we are suppose to believe they care. In ways maybe you do care I dont doubt that but I do not respect the selectivity. I find the duplicity questionable.