Prisons Inspector Condemns Global Solutions ‘Failures’ At Oakington Removal Centre

Marchers in London on October 7 with a clear message
Marchers in London on October 7 with a clear message

Privateer Global Solutions Ltd (GSL) has been criticised again for its management of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers published today her findings on Tuesday of a follow up inspection of Oakington IRC in June of this year.

Once again several recommendations from a previous inspection had not been implemented and there were ineffective ‘mechanisms to detect and prevent racial discrimination, in spite of previous recommendations and the report of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’.

Owers added that ‘provision of activity and of welfare support remained inadequate’.

She noted that ‘recommendations on suicide and self-harm had not been implemented, and anti-bullying procedures were weak’.

In total 18 recommendations from the last inspection had been ignored and 7 only partly achieved.

Owers has made 40 new recommendations, including improvements to ‘basic aspects of safety, decency, activity and resettlement’.

Liam Byrne Minister for Immigration responding to the report managed to ignore all Owers’ criticisms, concentrating on the very few palatable points.

The introduction from the report states:

‘This follow-up inspection of Oakington IRC was undertaken to check whether conditions and treatment in the centre had deteriorated as it moved towards its anticipated closure.

‘By the time of the inspection, however, there were proposals to extend the contract for a further three years – though it was unclear what kind of detainees the centre would hold.

‘Oakington had already ceased to hold women and children. It would shortly also cease to deal with “fast-track” cases, and therefore lose the associated on-site legal advice.

‘Our recommendations therefore include those things that will be needed if the contract is renewed and the population changes.

‘Oakington remained a reasonably safe environment. It was, however, disappointing that several of our recommendations on suicide and self-harm had not been implemented, and that anti-bullying procedures were weak.

‘This will be of increased importance if the centre remains in operation, and holds men who are detained for longer periods, with no on-site access either to independent legal advice or to the immigration service.

‘We were also extremely disappointed to find that there continued to be insufficient attention to basic protective race relations structures, such as effective ethnic monitoring procedures.

‘Given our previous recommendations, and the report of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, there can be no excuse for failing to put in place effective mechanisms to detect and prevent racial discrimination – even though staff-detainee relationships appeared to be essentially sound.

‘As in other removal centres, the provision of activity and of welfare support remained inadequate.

‘Again, these inadequacies were likely to become more apparent and important if the centre remained open with a different population.

‘The excellent work of the Refugee Council, in providing welfare advice outside its contractual responsibilities, would cease as the Council’s contract ended.

‘Detainees would also be held for longer periods, still without access to work.

‘At the time of this inspection, Oakington was clearly an establishment in transition.

‘It was not entirely clear whether this was a transition to closure or to a different role within the detention estate.

‘It is clear that if the centre does remain open, increased attention will be needed to basic aspects of safety, decency, activity and resettlement, with the withdrawal of some key services and a potentially more anxious and vulnerable population.

‘Our recommendations indicate the matters that will need to be addressed and indeed which should be incorporated into any new contractual agreement.’

Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Meanwhile, ‘Campaign to Close Campsfield’ members and supporters campaigners are holding a 13th anniversary demonstration at Campsfield IRC 12.00pm to 2.00pm on Saturday 25th November 2006 under the slogans:

‘Thirteen Years Too Long!

‘Close All 174 Detention Centres In Europe!

‘No Fortress Europe!’

There will be a demonstration at Campsfield IRC main gates, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford.

Campaign to Close Campsfield said yesterday: ‘The end of November sees the 13th anniversary of the opening of Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre.

‘Since 1993 uncounted thousands of people have been imprisoned in this first of the new wave of detention centres, six miles north of Oxford.

‘The Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Political Group of lefts/green members of the European Parliament – have launched an online petition calling for the closure of all immigration centres in Europe.

‘This is part of their anti detention campaign, No Fortress Europe!

‘Speakers include: former detainees, trade unionists, and students.

‘Bring music, banners, and messages of support. The latter will be delivered to detainees after the demonstration.’

Meanwhile, Barbed Wire Britain (BWB) committee member By Edward-Kennedy Nasho, reported that a one-day strategy conference ‘to fortify an ongoing campaign to end migrant and refugee detention’ last month was a success.

He said: ‘Not only was the conference well attended, the deliberations occurred on schedule.

‘The morning plenary session heard activists speak strongly on recent successes and lessons learned from the ongoing campaigns.

‘Topical areas included lessons learnt from detainees’ struggles, children in detention campaign, and the Action against Detention campaign.

‘The publishing of the second volume of VOICES II by BWB, a booklet containing detainees’ chronicles of continued torture and persecution, was highlighted.

‘The Manchester Initiatives were presented with vigour and the detainees’ rights initiative, including the right to mental health were advocated alongside Medical Justice, the right to appropriate medical treatment of migrants and refugees in immigration detention.

‘Other topics covered the crucial parliamentary campaign, Dungavel immigration Removal Centre, Bicester initiative, No Borders and Crossroads women campaigns.

‘More precision on the action plan was then engaged in at the afternoon workshops sessions that focused on a select subject matter.

‘Among other topics, the workshops deliberated on building support from interest groups of the likes of trades unions and some professional organisations.

‘One workshop consulted on how to effectively use direct action in the campaign for change.

‘Another discussed methods of changing the current law and policy that governs immigration detention.

‘Given the negative view portrayed by some sections of the national media, a fourth workshop dealt with making an impact on the media with the campaign.

‘Also invited to the conference and a speaker at the plenary session was Edoardo Boggio Marzet from the office of the Green United Left/Nordic Green Left group of members of the European Parliament who, among other things, underlined cooperation on European campaigns to end migrant detention and their online petition to close 170 detention centres across the EU.

‘Mindful of the UK Human Rights Act of 2001 and the European Convention on Human Rights from which it descends, BWB pursues an objective attitude towards the implementation of human rights in this country.

‘The detention of refugees and migrants violates a substantial amount of those rights and the best way to end such is to stop the detention system altogether.

‘Based on this fundamental principle and additional to the intent to reach out more people and changing attitudes and the law, the thrust of the conference was embedded on establishing a clearly coordinated strategy for the national campaign, which would be derived from shared experiences and unsurpassed practice.

‘From this objective, it was possible for the conference to devise an action plan for the future.

‘To better achieve this, a national committee was elected to coordinate those plans and accordingly communicate to participants. Almost half of the committee of 13 are former detainees.

‘The following were elected to form a Barbed Wire Britain committee.

‘They agreed to meet and did so on the 11th November 2006: George Mwangi, Edward Nasho, Gabriel Nkwelle, Gill Baden, Harmit Athwal, Bill MacKeith, Tim Flatman, Robert Robinson, Patrick Ramanazi, Carol Grayson, Greg Ryan, Zoe Muffett, all-Africa Women’s Group representative.’