On Wednesday 29th April 2020, the Government published the report by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on whether the Adults at Risk in immigration detention is making any difference. And they also published their response to this report.
Anyone interested in the issue of immigration detention would be encouraged to look at this report. It sets out with real clarity recent developments around trying to do more to ensure that people at risk are not detained. It describes in detail how such initiatives as the new Detention Gatekeeper role and the new Case Progression Panels have been established and offers clear recommendations to improve their effectiveness.
What is perhaps most sobering is that, having gone to the effort of setting up this independent review body and giving it a clear terms of reference to assess whether this policy is making a difference, how many of the recommendations are either rejected or only partially accepted by the Government.
Two elements of the report and the Government response immediately stood out for me. Firstly, the report makes the modest suggestion that it would be helpful for Detention Gatekeepers to have access to real time professional medical advice to help them understand medical conditions so that they can make a decision on vulnerability. The report details that staff have to resort to online searches to find out more about certain medical conditions to help them come to a decision. This modest but highly sensible recommendation was rejected by the Government.
Secondly, the report identifies that there is a challenge over the number of different referral forms, which are used to initiate the detention process. The report details that there are currently four different forms used for referrals for immigration detention. It recommends that there is an overhaul of the forms and other methods by which data and information about the detained population is collected to ensure that this data is collected consistently and comprehensively. Again this is a modest and highly sensible recommendations which again was rejected by the Government.
There remain many big immediate changes that we want to see happen on immigration detention, most notably we want to see a time limit introduced. But having gone to the effort of developing new these initiatives in response to the Shaw reports, and while we can be critical about these initiatives, it is just so disappointing to see the Government rejecting recommendations from its own independent review body, which are merely seeking to enhance the effectiveness of these initiatives.