Yesterday this government’s Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention statutory guidance was updated, with changes that will no doubt lead to more vulnerable people being detained, and for longer. 

The guidance was introduced in 2016 in response to Stephen Shaw’s Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons, and the previous version explicitly stated that its intention was to “lead to a reduction in the number of vulnerable people detained and a reduction in the duration of detention before removal.” This language has now been removed. 

Similarly, the prior guidance’s clear presumption … that detention will not be appropriate if a person is considered to be ‘at risk’ of harm is replaced in the new guidance by reference to a general presumption of liberty, which is strengthened for those considered vulnerable under this guidance.”*

It is shocking that in the wake of last year’s damning Brook House Inquiry Report, safeguards for people at risk of harm in immigration detention are being weakened rather than reinforced. 

That inquiry unearthed a deeply troubling list of issues at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, including racism, excessive and inappropriate use of force and dysfunctional safeguarding systems. There were at least 19 incidents of inhuman and degrading treatment in just a 5-month period, including staff outing and mocking a gay man in front of others in the centre. 

Medical Justice have recently raised the alarm that only one of the Inquiry’s 31 recommendations has been accepted in full by the Government. Meanwhile, JRS UK have evidenced that abuse and mistreatment remain endemic throughout the UK detention system, years after the incidents that were uncovered at Brook House. 

In this context it is appalling to see this Government making it even harder for those at increased risk of harm in detention to challenge their detention under the guidance. 

The changes could affect trans and intersex people, who are recognised as being at greater risk of harm in detention under the guidance. The government still does not include the rest of the LGB community in the guidance, despite acknowledging in the accompanying Equality Impact Assessment that where a detained lesbian, gay or bisexual person’s sexuality is openly expressed, they may be more likely to be victims of bullying and therefore may be adversely affected by their experience of detention” 

All LGBTQI+ people should be free to openly express their sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they are in the UK, and continuing to lock them up in spaces where they cannot do so safely is cruel and unacceptable. We will continue to push for all our community to be included in the Adults at Risk guidance, and for this guidance to be improved to work fairly for everyone who falls under it. 

Find out more about our No Pride In Detention campaign or add your name to end LGBTQI+ detention. 


*  There are also worrying changes to the types of evidence required, and ways in which evidence could be obtained, to demonstrate a person’s risk of harm or for the Home Office to ‘justify’ their detention. Some of these are discussed on the Free Movement website.