more risk for LGBTQI+ people in detention

This Government has stopped commissioning the annual independent reviews into the treatment of vulnerable adults in immigration detention. If there is no one that keeps an eye on the conditions in detention, LGBTQI+ people could be put at risk of more harm.  

Last week, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), David Neal, and the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw CBE, reported that this Government was ending their annual independent investigations into the treatment of vulnerable adults in detention.  

What is the Adults at Risk policy and how long has it been independently reviewed?  

The Adults at Risk policy (AaR) recognises that certain groups of people may be “particularly vulnerable to harm in detention” and creates a presumption that these groups should not be detained. The AaR includes trans and intersex people and our ‘No Pride in Detention’ campaign is calling for lesbians, gay and bisexual people to also be included in this policy, as there is evidence that they also experience homophobic bullying, harassment and abuse when locked up. 

The ICIBI carries out reviews on the effectiveness of the Home Office’s practices and policies towards adults at risk in immigration detention since 2015 and makes recommendations to improve the conditions of detention. But as the ICIBI notes, “though many recommendations arising from our reviews and inspections have been accepted, progress in implementing them has been painfully slow”. 

For instance, in 2019, In his report on the Adults at Risk annual inspection, the ICIBI commented upon the fact that the Home Office does not collect data on the number of LGBTQI+ people who are detained, and therefore it was “hard to see how the Home Office is able to assess the quality of its decisions to detain or the impacts of detention on specific group”. This is a recommendation that has not been implemented yet.  

Latest ICIBI report released 

The news about the end of these reviews comes as the last annual report has just been released, in which the Inspectorate reports that “officers in both Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth [detention centres] told inspectors that being under-resourced and carrying vacancies was negatively affecting the delivery of their required engagement activity”, with delays of “up to a month”. The “engagement activity” includes inductions for new arrivals to detention, in which LGBTQI+ people have the opportunity to raise their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with officials. If people don’t have the opportunity to raise that they are LGBTQI+ when they enter the detention centre, it can be more difficult to raise this at a later stage, and people may not be made aware of policies that are in place to protect them from bullying, discrimination and abuse.  

With these inspections coming to an end, the Home Office will face less pressure to comply with the policy and improve conditions in detention for adults at risk, including LGBTQI+ people.  

The Government has said it plans to “take the welfare of detained individuals extremely seriously”, but at Rainbow Migration we find it hard to understand how they are going to achieve that while dismantling the independent scrutiny mechanisms in place.  

Immigration detention is not safe for anyone. Being detained puts many people who are often already traumatised, at even greater risk of poor mental health and suicide. This is especially true for LGBTQI+ people. 

Instead of trying to end the annual reviews on the adults at risk policy’s effectiveness, this Government should put an end to the detention of LGBTQI+ people and set a time limit on all immigration detention.  

There is #NoPrideInDetention.