Dover Immigration Removal Centre has served as home to many of its inhabitants for months or even years. It has received damning reports due to its prison-like conditions and long periods of detention. On 15th October the Home Office finally announced that it would shut. This announcement came without reasons or warning for either the migrants or those who stand to lose their jobs due to the closure.
The closure must be seen in the context of the chopping and changing of detention policies over the past year. Earlier in the year, the government scrapped plans to expand Campsfield Detention Centre, while The Verne Immigration Removal Centre opened its doors. Its gated iron doors. The government was forced into a change by the suspension of the detained fast track system, and subsequent declaration of its procedural unfairness. The concern over welfare in detention centres has prompted the government to launch the Shaw review to scrutinise Home Office healthcare policies in immigration removal centres.
Dover IRC had 316 beds. This should be compared with the overall size of the UK detention estate, which, at the end of June, housed 3,418 people. The Government suggests that this increase, up from 3,079 detainees in June 2014, was due to the opening of The Verne. The increase in detainees was only as low as 339 due to the closure of the detention centre at Haslar in April 2015. The reduction caused by Dover closing will be almost 10%, which is to be greatly welcomed.
Detainees in Dover, a relatively urban immigration removal centre, may be moved to removal centres such as The Verne, or Morton Hall in Lincolnshire, which are remote from any cities, where legal representatives are based.
The lack of prior warning of the closure adds to the difficulty that detainees will have in keeping up contact with their representatives. A survey run by Bail for Immigration Detainees suggests that a fifth of detainees lost their legal representation when they transferred between detention centres. This is precisely the sort of procedural unfairness which is impossible to challenge legally but makes a major difference to the chances of a vulnerable asylum seeker being granted refuge.
Dover IRC is to close – our legal advice survey found 1 in 5 detainees lost legal representation transferring between detention centres.
— BID (@BIDdetention) October 16, 2015
Closing poorly performing detention centres only to move detainees to equally bad ones is no solution. Nor is keeping the detainees in Dover if it remains as inhospitable as ever. The solution is to improve the conditions in which the detainees are held, and legislate for the 28-day time limit recommended by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration. This would avoid the indefinite periods of detention, the despair, and the attendant mental health issues which are caused by being indefinitely detained without having committed a crime.