It looked for a while like banning this blog was all the rage. First there was some discussion on Twitter on which websites are banned within immigration detention centres, then the immigration tribunal presidents had a go as well.
— BID (@BIDdetention) March 8, 2013
Well, a Freedom of Information request has shown that there is no official policy on restricted access to websites within the immigration detention estate and that access to the list of specific websites I enquired about are all in fact permitted:
There is no policy or other documents outlining which websites are to be blocked or partially blocked for detainees in the immigration detention estate going back to February 2010. There would be a provision within the contract between the UK Border Agency and the service provider to put in place sufficient safeguards to ensure sites that fall within prohibited categories are screened out by blocking software. Prohibited categories include those you have mentioned such as betting, social media or pornographic websites.
Supervised internet access is provided in all centres for the purpose of enabling detainees to maintain contact with family and friends and their legal representatives. Unsupervised access to the internet has the potential to compromise estate security and can also be used for criminal purposes such as: – the viewing and distribution of pornography, for the viewing and distribution of material associated with terrorism or glorifying acts of terrorism and for time served foreign national offenders, inappropriate contact with victims. Access to social networking websites carries similar risks.
I can confirm that none of the websites you have listed fall within the prohibited categories so detainees can access them all. [added emphasis]
The listed website were (in no particular order):
Several lawyers and visitors have heard anecdotes of access to various legal websites being restricted, Bail for Immigration Detainees being perhaps the most controversial and outrageous, but the list of websites seems to vary from one detention centre to another and websites are added to and taken off the individual centre blacklists from time to time.
Hopefully this FOI request will at least ensure future access. Although if FM is banned then it will be a bit difficult for a detainee to access this blog post as evidence on which to base a complaint…