“A Secret Punishment – the misuse of segregation in immigration detention”, published today by the charity Medical Justice, reveals that a disturbing number of sick immigration detainees are put in segregation indiscriminately.  Medical Justice are calling for an immediate halt to the use of segregation in immigration detention.  Immigration detainees may be detained indefinitely despite not having committed any crime – putting them in segregation adds to their trauma.


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Between 1,200 and 4,800 detainees are segregated each year in immigration detention. Alarmingly there is little central monitoring of the use of segregation.  This dossier draws on the cases of 15 detainees assisted by Medical Justice.

One woman became mentally ill as a result of being detained for 17 months. During this time she was handcuffed and held in segregation on many occasions to prevent her self-harming.  The High Court found her detention amounted to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’.  

This dossier reveals that the damaging physical and psychological impact of segregation is widely recognised. Its misuse has been repeatedly criticised by official inspectorates yet the abuses continue. It is overused, applied inappropriately and often contravenes the rules.

Findings include:
•    One detainee held in segregation for 22 months
•    One schizophrenic detainee died in segregation
•    One person was segregated eight times during 800 days of detention
•    One detainee was segregated for nine days purely because they were a child
•    One woman was assaulted with a riot shield while being taken to segregation

Kris Harris, author of the report, said : “Despite the horrific experiences that many of these individuals have had in their countries of origin and their difficult journeys to the UK, it was the trauma of segregation in the UK they could not bear to relive or discuss.”

Richard Fuller MP said : “This dossier is further evidence that extensive use of detention for administrative purposes can result in actions and outcomes that challenge our British values of decency and fairness.”

Dr Hugh Grant Peterkin of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on Asylum said : “Patients with severe mental ill health that cannot be satisfactorily managed should not be in detention in the first place, making segregation of such individuals doubly wrong. The working group endorses the recommendations of Medical Justice’s report that overuse or misuse of segregation in immigration detention must end.”

Ex-detainee ‘Ujay’ (case-study in the report) described his experience: “They picked me up from healthcare and beat me up in segregation, kicking me on the floor. There is no CCTV in segregation. … This is a punishment room … Segregation is always a shut room. No mobile, they don’t let you speak with anyone. …When they finally release you from segregation they continue to threaten you with it. Every time they say – “do you need a refresher? Do you want to go back there again?””

Suffering from a mental illness should preclude the use of segregation yet detainees are sometimes segregated because of mental illness.

Segregation is often used, unlawfully, as a punishment. This is particularly disturbing as detention is not subject to automatic judicial oversight and detainees don’t have access to an adjudication process.

Segregation is often used to prevent detainees self-harming despite indications it makes matters worse.

Segregation in immigration detention Involves locking detainees, who are not accused of any crime, in a solitary cell for up to 23 hours a day.

Although segregation is recognised as the most severe, limiting and dangerous restriction, there is no independent oversight and minimal monitoring of the extent and conditions of its use.

For further information – Please contact Emma Ginn on emma.ginn@medicaljustice.org.uk / 07904 778365


The “’A Secret Punishment’ : the mis-use of segregation in immigration detention” dossier is being published on Monday 19th October 2015 at a launch event at 1pm in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House. The speakers are available for interview and are;
* Richard Fuller MP (Conservative)
* Emma Norton, lawyer, Liberty
* Dr Hugh Grant Peterkin, psychiatrist, Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on Asylum
* Kris Harris, Policy & Research Worker, Medical Justice (author of the report)
* ‘Ujay’ – ex-detainee who was held in segregation

About Medical Justice – Every year Medical Justice receives more than a hundred referrals from detainees with serious health problems held at Yarl’s Wood. We are the only charity that organises for independent volunteer doctors to visit all of the UK’s IRCs to assess detainees and document their scars of torture and medical conditions that should be considered in their immigration and asylum claims.  Our doctors also identify and challenge any inadequate healthcare and instances of medical mistreatment.  We work to bring about lasting change by producing research and undertaking policy work and strategic litigation.