Duncan Lewis

Legal Aid

Lawyers London

Victims of torture being held at Centres in breach of government rules say a charity

Date: (1 October 2012)    |    

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Victims of torture and rape are being detained at the controversial Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in Scotland in breach of government rules which aims at protecting traumatised asylum seekers.
Medical Justice a charity has said that at least 14 asylum seeker have been confined wrongfully at the South Lanarkshire facility since February 2010.
Under Rule 35 of the Home Office’s detention centre rules, dating from 2001, medical staff in immigration removal centres (IRCs) must prepare a report for people who claim to have been tortured. Those reports should be reviewed by the United Kingdom Border’s Agency (UKBA) and the detainee released if their account is verified.
But Medical Justice alleged that staff at the centre routinely failed to implement Rule 35 and that UKBA’s response to torture reports was often inadequate.
Medical Justice volunteer Dr Kate Wrigley told Scotland On Sunday she had examined a number of former Dungavel detainees with scars and injuries who should not have been held at the facility.
She said for example, people who have been hit with the rifle butts have skull depressions, distinctive burns from cigarettes or hot metal objects, shoulder injuries following prolonged hanging by the wrists, as well as people with psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder following alleged torture and rape. People often have many scars and significant mental health problems which can become worse in detention.
Natasha Tsangarides, of Medical Justice, said the failure to identify and release people with independent evidence of torture at Dungavel IRC was not an isolated problem.
It was prevalent in all IRCs across the UK. The UK Border Agency has repeatedly been criticised over this by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, as well as in a series of damning case law judgments. However, little had changed.
Earlier this year, Medical Justice produced a report examining the cases of 50 people who had independent evidence of torture. “All but one were failed by the Rule 35 process, whilst the rest languished in detention,” Tsangarides said. The continued failure to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in the society showed the disrespect and disregard the UK Border Agency have in upholding the rule of law.
Keith Best, the chief executive of Freedom from Torture, said UKBA’s own policy says torture survivors should be detained only in the most exceptional circumstances. But this was routinely being flouted, as is this basic safeguard known as ‘Rule 35’, which is meant to correct bad decisions,” he said.
A UKBA spokesman said that anyone believed to be a victim of torture was only detained in exceptional circumstances and was treated with the utmost sensitivity. Dungavel IRC had been receiving very positive reports from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and UKBA continue to tighten procedures and improve training for staff working in removal centres.
Scotland On Sunday’s investigation into the treatment of asylum seekers can also reveal that children are still being locked up, despite a government promise two years ago to end child detention.