Medical Justice submitted evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report – Home Office preparedness for COVID-19 (Coronavirus): institutional accommodation.
You can read the report here. The section on Immigration Detention starts on Page 37.
Below are some selected extracts from the report:
“In supplementary evidence Medical Justice told the Committee that it was important to recognise that, while the use of single rooms might help to contain the spread of infection, it could potentially introduce other risks for many detainees including “social isolation, risk of suicide and self-harming and increased anxiety”.
“Medical Justice criticised the lack of detail in the guidance and questioned why social distancing was not mentioned despite it being “a major component of the various providers’ policy inside of detention”
“Given the current lack of Covid-19 testing available to detainees, Medical Justice argued that cohorting could increase the risk of exposing symptomatic detainees to individuals who are Covid-19 positive, thus increasing their risk of additional infection with Covid-19
Further extracts from the report;
“Government guidance which came into force on 5 May 2020, although it was not published until 5 June, confirmed that individuals at high risk of contracting Covid-19 should be treated as AAR Level 3 cases. This clarification, which confirms the commitment made by the Home Office to the High Court on 26 March, is welcome although earlier publication would have provided greater clarity and reassurance. Evidence we received from the IRC providers shortly after this guidance came into effect indicated inconsistencies in their implementation of the AAR policy, specifically as it relates to those highly vulnerable detainees at greater risk of becoming ill from Covid-19. This is deeply concerning, and reflects concerns raised in evidence to us about officials’ attempts to interpret broadly drafted immigration detention policies, and the consequent litigation and uncertainty that can ensue.”
“In oral evidence, Mitie told us that it had no adults at risk in its IRCs but that it had around 70 detainees who were “particularly vulnerable” in relation to Covid-19. In subsequent written evidence, Mitie clarified that it had a total of “70 detainees considered vulnerable including AAR and “high” or “at risk” categories” with 35 detainees at level 2 of the AAR and 21 at level 3.” It added that any individuals considered to be potentially “high risk” or “at risk” due to Covid-19, such as detainees over the age of 70 or those with an underlying medical condition, are recorded on arrival at the IRC. In written evidence Serco told us that six of its residents at Yard’s Wood IRC were currently “classed as adults at risk level 2” with none at level 3. In addition, it reported that two of its residents are on supported living plans “due to being at increased risk of COVID-19 due to their current medical issues.”
“It is troubling that nearly 40% of those remaining in immigration detention should have been categorised as meeting Levels 2 or 3 of the Adults at Risk policy indicating significant vulnerability and, potentially, that they are at high risk from Covid-19.”
“Government guidance on the operation of the adults at risk policy indicates that evidence meeting the standard for Level 2 in the AAR policy “should normally be accepted and consideration given as to how this may be impacted by detention”, while evidence at Level 3 “stating that the individual is at risk and that a period of detention would be likely to cause harm … should be afforded significant weight… and any detention reviewed in light of the accepted evidence.”
“Written evidence from the British Medical Association (BMA) raised concerns regarding health conditions and testing within IRCs, highlighting that they are “challenging environments for healthcare workers to treat people in at the best of times, with workforce shortages and often dated or under-resourced facilities”. It cautioned that “any further reductions” to the medical workforce in IRCs could be “catastrophic to the care that is available.”
“Within the immigration removal process, the decision to remove from immigration detention people who did not need to be there, who were not a danger to the public, and who had no prospect of imminent removal was equally sensible.”