A new report by HM Inspector of Prisons, out yesterday, has shown that delays and confusion have kept people in immigration detention behind bars unnecessarily.

Their review of the experience of immigration detainees held in prisons has found that they were markedly disadvantaged compared with those held in immigration removal centres (IRCs), with many in custody for long periods with little or no progress in their cases being made by the Home Office.

Their inspectors found that detainees struggled to access legal advice. Very few had been told that they were entitled to half an hour of free legal advice, and many of the prison and Home Office staff, that inspectors spoke to, were not themselves aware of this entitlement.

Adding to this confusion, immigration papers were usually served in English with no formal interpretation services used when updating prisoners on their cases. Detainees therefore resorted to asking other prisoners to translate for them, leading to confusion and distress. Many described a feeling of hopelessness and despair at their situation.

Most worryingly, vulnerable detainees, including victims of torture, were not routinely identified, nor their release considered in the same way it should be in IRCs.

And one of their conclusions is surely a powerful rallying call for action: “the prolonged detention of people under immigration powers, especially when it is because of inefficiencies in Home Office case-working procedures, is inexcusable given that so many prisons are already overcrowded.”