The Detention Forum responds to the government’s latest plan to expand immigration detention estate

13 June 2013

The Detention Forum is alarmed to learn that the government is yet again planning to expand UK’s immigration detention estate.  A discussion appears to be underway to determine the future of HMP Verne, a former prison in Portland, Dorset.  The news was also reported in the local newspaper, Dorset Echo

Although no formal decision has been taken, converting HMP Verne into an immigration detention centre will add 600 spaces to the detention estate.  With the 1,000 prisons spaces that are currently used to hold post-sentence immigration detainees, this increases the UK’s detention estate to 5,000 spaces.  Only in November last year, a similar proposal was made when the Lincoln prison was under review and was swiftly dropped. 

The Detention Forum has now written to Minister for Justice, Chris Grayling MP, urging him to reconsider this proposal.  The joint-letter was signed by 19 member organisations. 

Ali McGinley, one of the signatories to the letter and is Director of Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees said; This proposal marks another major expansion in the UK’s use of immigration detention, yet again without any considered analysis or scrutiny of the detention system.  It comes just as the UK has come under international criticism – by the UN Committee against Torture – for its use of immigration detention. If it goes ahead, this new centre will deprive many thousands more migrants of their liberty every year, and put many more vulnerable people at risk, despite continuing international and national calls for change.’    

The UK’s use of immigration detention has shown no sign of decline since the Coalition Government was formed in May 2010.  While the number of detained children has fallen drastically since then, the overall number of those who enter detention has continued to rise steadily: in 2012, a total of 28,909 people entered detention (this excludes the number of immigration detainees held in prisons).  Only recently, Immigration Minister, Mark Harper MP, expressed in parliament the government’s intention to increase the use of controversial detained fast track system and national removals centre