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Lack of safeguards for immigration detainees in prisons is unlawful, court rules

A LACK of safeguards for immigration detainees in prisons is unlawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled. 

Hundreds of detainees are held in prisons under immigration powers. But unlike people held in Britain’s detention centres, they cannot benefit from procedures that identify and protect vulnerable detainees, known as Rule 35. 

Under the rule, doctors in immigration removal centres are required to raise concerns about vulnerable detainees to the Home Office, including if a person is suicidal or a victim of torture.

This can lead to people being released from detention, but doctors in prisons are not required to do this. 

Two former prison detainees, one originally from Pakistan and the other from Nigeria, took the Home Office to court to challenge the differences in the two facilities, saying it amounts to “systematic unfairness.”

Both said they are victims of past torture, with scarring to prove it.

Last week the Court of Appeal ruled that, in these two cases, the absence of an equivalent procedure in jails was “irrational, and therefore unlawful.”

The ruling overturned a previous decision in the High Court earlier this year which claimed that the difference was “not irrational.” 

Responding to the ruling, Bail for Immigration Detainees research and policy co-ordinator Rudy Schulkind said that the group’s clients in prisons are being held “indefinitely” and denied access to legal advice. 

He said: “For many, this confluence of factors has resulted in a significant deterioration in their mental health, but as the court has found, the safeguards to prevent the wrongful detention of vulnerable people are inadequate.

“This is the second time in as many months that the system of immigration detention in prisons has been found to be unlawful — it is high time that the government put an end to this inhumane practice.”

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