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Category: Submission

Illegal Migration Act 2023 – Medical Justice briefings and advocacy work

Medical Justice is deeply concerned by the passing of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and opposes the legislation in its entirety. The Act effectively amounts to a ban on claiming asylum in the UK by most asylum seekers. Amongst many other worrying provisions, the Act greatly increases the Home Secretary’s powers of detention, expands who can be detained, including in relation to children, and curtails judicial scrutiny and effective avenues for challenging a person’s detention. 

During the Act’s passage through Parliament, Medical Justice supported MPs and Peers with their efforts to oppose the legislation and highlight its damaging effects. Our activities included organising in-person meetings, providing written briefings, working with Peers to table amendments, writing to Ministers, and media work. We worked collaboratively with other organisations who share our concerns. 

You can access all written materials on the Act produced by Medical Justice, either individually or jointly with other organisations, below. 


Commons Committee stage (27-28 March 2023) 


Joint briefing on detention of pregnant women (23 March 2023) – Medical Justice, Birth Companions, British Medical Association, Maternity Action, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Women for Refugee Women 


Briefing on detention provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill (24 March 2023) – Medical Justice

Lords’ stages – general 

Sector-wide strategy meeting for Lords’ stages (18 April 2023) – organised by Medical Justice and Garden Court Chambers. Four peers attended, along with their special advisors and over 40 representatives from 27 NGOs. Lessons were shared from previous Bills and a proposed strategy was agreed in relation to amendments, further meetings and wider coordination. 


Lords Second Reading (10 May 2023)


Joint briefing on medical consequences of the Illegal Migration Bill (20 April 2023) – Medical Justice, Doctors of the World, Freedom from Torture, Helen Bamber Foundation, Maternity Action and Médecins Sans Frontières 


Online briefing meeting for peers on Illegal Migration Bill – Notes (3 May 2023) – the meeting was organised by Medical Justice and chaired by Baroness Chakrabarti (Labour). Fifteen cross-party peers attended, along with their special advisors and over 45 representatives from 35 NGOs. The discussion covered all aspects of the Bill: experts by experience provided their views on the legislation, and additional presentations were provided by Medical Justice, JUSTICE, Refugee Council, ECPAT UK, Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Garden Court Chambers, Refugee Action, and Women for Refugee Women. Notes from the meeting (link above) were shared with peers to assist in their preparation for the Bill. 


Joint briefing on Illegal Migration Bill (5 May 2023)– Medical Justice, Anti-Slavery International, Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU), Bail for Immigration Detainees, Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Detention Action, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), Helen Bamber Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), JustRight Scotland, Liberty, Northern Ireland Human Rights Consortium, No Accommodation Network (NACCOM), the PILS Project, Praxis, Public Law Project, Rainbow Migration, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Scottish Refugee Council, Welsh Civil Society Forum, and Women for Refugee Women


Open letter to the Home Secretary on medical consequences of the Illegal Migration Bill (10 May 2023) – Medical Justice, British Medical Association, Doctors of the World UK, Faculty of Public Health, Freedom From Torture, Helen Bamber Foundation, International Child Health Group, Maternity Action, Médecins Sans Frontières UK, Medical Justice, Royal College of Nursing, Unison, Unite 


Joint civil society solidarity statement on the Illegal Migration Bill (10 May 2023) – Medical Justice and 180 other organisations


Joint briefing on child detention (10 May 2023) – Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium (RMCC), including Medical Justice 


Joint letter to the Times on detention of pregnant women (11 May 2023) – Medical Justice, Birth Companions, British Medical Association, Maternity Action, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Women for Refugee Women 


Joint briefing on detention provisions in the Illegal Migration Bill (19 May 2023) – Medical Justice, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Detention Action, and Women for Refugee Women 


Lords Committee Stage (24 May, 5, 7, 12, and 14 June 2023) 


Written briefings for each of the amendments below, tabled by peers at Medical Justice’s suggestion:  

  • Amendment 62 – limiting detention only to those facilities already authorised for detention (IRCs, STHFs, PDAs, prisons etc) and creating a duty to consult local residents before opening new facilities – tabled by Lord German (Liberal Democrat) and the Lord Bishop of Durham 
  • Amendment 68 – creating a statutory ban on the use of force against children and pregnant women to effect detention and removal – tabled by Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Labour), Baroness Gohir (crossbencher), the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, and Baroness Chakrabarti (Labour) 
  • Amendment 78 – creating an exemption from the detention ouster clause for people with medical report evidencing their vulnerability – tabled by the Lord Bishop of Durham, Baroness Lister, and Baroness Neuberger (crossbencher) 
  • Amendment 139B – placing the Home Secretary under a duty to implement HMIP recommendations made in relation to immigration detention, and to do so within 6 months – tabled by the Lord Bishop of Durham, Lord Scriven (Liberal Democrat) and Baroness Lister  
  • Amendment 142 – preventing the implementation of any substantive parts of the Bill until the Chair of the Brook House Inquiry has published her report and the government has explained how it will put into practice her recommendations – tabled by Lord German


Joint briefing on the Illegal Migration Bill and its impact on children (25 May 2023) – Medical Justice, British Association of Social Workers, British Medical Association, Refugee Council, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 


Joint briefing on child detention (30 May 2023) – Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, including Medical Justice 


Lords Report Stage (28 June, 3, and 5 July 2023) 

Joint briefing on child detention (27 June 2023) – Medical Justice, Article 39, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Barnardo’s, Children England, Citizens UK, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, the Children’s Society, Coram, Detention Action, ECPAT UK, Helen Bamber Foundation, National Children’s Bureau, National Youth Advocacy Service, Plan International, Refugee Council, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Safe Passage, Save The Children, Together With Refugees 

Joint briefing on Clause 1 / Amendment 5 to the Illegal Migration Bill (28 June 2023) – Medical Justice and over 50 other organisations 

Joint briefing on immigration bail, judicial review and habeas corpus (28 June 2023) – Medical Justice, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Detention Action, ILPA, Liberty, Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Public Law Project 


For Commons consideration of Lords amendments (11 July 2023) 

Joint briefing on immigration bail, judicial review and habeas corpus (10 July 2023) – Medical Justice, BID, Detention Action, ILPA 


Joint briefing on Clause 1 of the Illegal Migration Bill (10 July) – Medical Justice and over 65 other organisations 


Open letter to the Prime Minister on the detention of children (11 July 2023) – Medical Justice and over 150 other organisations 


Anti-trafficking sector joint briefing on Clause 1 of the Illegal Migration Bill and compliance with international obligations (11 July 2023) – Medical Justice and over 30 other organisations 


Royal Assent 

Joint civil society statement on the passage of the Illegal Migration Act – Medical Justice and over 285 other organisations (18 July 2023) 

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture Carries Out Ad Hoc Visit to IRCs

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to immigration detention sites in the United Kingdom from 27 March to 6 April 2023. 

Medical Justice welcomes the CPT’s visit. It is particularly timely given the mounting evidence of the severe harm that detention is causing and the simultaneous plans from the government to increase the detention estate – the Illegal Migration Bill calls for an exponential expansion. 

The aim of the CPT’s visit was to examine the treatment and conditions of detention of people held under immigration powers, both in immigration removal centres and prisons. The CPT delegation also examined the effectiveness of the safeguarding procedures in place for vulnerable persons deprived of their liberty in immigration removal centres (IRCs). 

The CPT visited: 

  • Brook House IRC 
  • Colnbrook IRC 
  • Colnbrook Short-Term Holding Facility 
  • Derwentside IRC 
  • Harmondsworth IRC 
  • Pentonville Prison, London
  • Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London 

Medical Justice fed into the CPT’s visit by submitting written comments and meeting with the CPT delegation in person. We highlighted: 

  • The profound harm that immigration detention inflicts on people 
  • The limitations on effective treatment that can be provided in immigration detention settings 
  • The systemic defects in detention and clinical safeguards 
  • The misuse of force 
  • The inappropriate use of segregation 
  • The criminalisation of people, institutional culture of dehumanisation and racism  
  • The culture of disbelief 
  • The lack of accountability and oversight, and a culture of impunity
  • The government’s plans to expand detention and the proposed powers in the Illegal Migration Bill.  

For more information of the CPT’s visit, see here. 

To read Medical Justice’s submission, see here 

Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Human Trafficking

Evidence from the Taskforce on Victims of Human Trafficking in Immigration Detention


The Detention Taskforce on Victims of Human Trafficking in Immigration Detention, of which Medical Justice is a part of, responded to the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Human Trafficking, in March 2023. Our response focused on issues surrounding the detention of survivors of ttrafficking and the impact of this. It drew on the findings and recommendations made in the our joint report ‘Abuse by the System: survivors of trafficking in immigration detention’.


Submission from Medical Justice and others to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee about Short-term Holding Facilities (Amendment) Rules 2022

In December 2022, the government laid secondary legislation creating a new category of Short-term Holding Facility (STHF), designed specifically for the notorious site at Manston. The new category is known as a “Residential Holding Room” (RHR).

In early January 2023, along a number of other charities Medical Justice submitted evidence to a Committee in the Lords tasked with scrutinising the legislation in early January 2023. We highlighted grave concerns about the legislation, including how it allows safeguards and standards at sites designated as RHRs like Manston to be dramatically downgraded, whilst also quadrupling the length of time – from 24 to 96 hours – that the Home Office can hold people there.

The Committee issued a report on the legislation in late January which is very critical of the government. It picks many of the points we raised, before concluding that the Committee is “left with the strong impression that the new category [of STHF] is designed for the operational convenience of the Home Office, rather than for good reasons of public policy”.

Read our submission here. The Committee’s full report is available here (from p.19).

Medical Justice evidence for the Joint Human Rights Committee – Inquiry into the Human Rights of Asylum Seekers in the UK

The Commons’ and Lords’ Joint Committee on Human Rights is conducting an inquiry into the rights of asylum seekers in the UK, with a view to identifying human rights concerns. This includes looking at whether rules on detention and processing, and the treatment of detained asylum seekers, are consistent with the UK’s human rights obligations.

In December 2022 Medical Justice submitted written evidence to the Inquiry. Our submission focussed on the so-called ‘safeguarding’ system in detention, explaining how it is both fundamentally flawed and poorly operated. The submission looks particularly at the Adults At Risk in Immigration Detention (AAR) policy, Rules 34 and 35 of the Detention Centre Rules (DCR) 2001, and the Detention Gatekeeper, as well as the treatment of detained people lack decision-making capacity.

Read our submission here

Medical Justice evidence about the Rwanda policy for the Lords International Agreements Committee

The House of Lords International Agreements Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the government’s Rwanda policy, looking in particular at the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UK and Rwanda.

In October 2022 Medical Justice submitted written evidence to the Inquiry, highlighting serious concerns about the policy including high levels of vulnerability amongst those targeted for removal, inadequate screening processes, poor access to legal advice, and reports of assaults and excessive force used against people during their transfer to the aborted flight in June.

Read our submission here.

Medical Justice evidence about the Rwanda policy for the Justice and Home Affairs Committee

The House of Lords’ Justice and Home Affairs Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into family migration. The inquiry approaches family migration policies in the widest possible sense, including the general trends in the design of family immigration pathways, similarities and discrepancies across them, how migration policies affect families, and how family migration policies affect society.

Medical Justice submitted written evidence to the Committee in relation to the Rwanda policy, using anonymised data gathered from our clients. Our submission explained that many of the individuals facing removal under the policy had family members in the UK, including parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles. It also highlighted the highly damaging effects of the policy, particularly in terms of people’s mental health.

Read our submission here.

Medical Justice oral and written evidence about the Rwanda policy for the Home Affairs Committee

The House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee is running an inquiry looking at the latest developments in Government policy on migration and asylum.

In June 2022, Medical Justice submitted written evidence to the inquiry in relation to the Rwanda policy. Using anonymised data gathered from Medical Justice clients, the submission highlighted the distressing psychological impacts experienced by those facing removal under the policy, and deeply flawed Home Office processes to which they were subjected.

Read our submission here.

In July 2022 our Casework Manager, Theresa Schleicher, gave further oral evidence to the Committee during a session on the Rwanda policy.

Watch the evidence session here, or read a transcript here.

Closing Statement in the Brook House Inquiry

The Closing Statement on behalf of Medical Justice was heard yesterday – our points included are below.  Closing statements by other Core Participants were also heard yesterday and continue today.  A link to the live sessions and transcripts is here.

The Chair’s closing statement will be available from the afternoon of Wednesday 6th April.

The closing statements sum up evidence from over 75 witnesses heard by the Inquiry, including formerly detained people, Brook House IRC officers and senior managers, Home Office officials, healthcare staff (doctors and nurses), representatives from HM Inspector of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Board, three experts appointed by the Inquiry (covering clinical, cultural and use of force issues), and charities who advocate for the rights of detained people.

The mistreatment of people in detention and the systemic failures to safeguard the vulnerable was widely recognised during the Brook House Inquiry, including by Home Office officials and the Inquiry’s appointed experts.

One Home Office official, Ian Castle, said “I think, if you spend more than 24 hours in Brook House, you’re going to develop mental health issues.”


Points from the Closing Statement on behalf of Medical Justice included:

The fundamental cause of the ill-treatment captured on BBC Panorama

  • The welfare of vulnerable detained people, a high proportion of whom suffer from mental illnesses arising from history of torture and abuse, is routinely treated as an obstacle to removal. Removal is prioritised above all other considerations.
  • This was reinforced by the contractual arrangements which put a premium on price and profit over care and respect for fundamental human rights.
  • Immigration detention is not designed, staffed or resourced to meet the needs of vulnerable detained people – it harms them. Restraints and segregation are used to manage crises which are manifestations of mental health conditions, often exacerbated by the conditions of detention.

The Home Office has ‘designed in’ an inability to learn lessons

  • There is no clear process for feeding back to managers of IRCs, Home Office decision makers, contractors, and healthcare providers when there are serious findings of fault. Shockingly, not even from the most serious court findings of ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ or from inquest jury findings, where harm was caused by systems defects and neglect had contributed to actual deaths of detained people.
  • One senior Home Office official, Ian Cheeseman, acknowledged these structural deficiencies without emotion, and unapologetically.
  • Several senior Home Office officials had not taken the time to read the material provided to them by the Inquiry prior to giving evidence, or followed the hearings.


Condemnation of healthcare

  • The Inquiry’s clinical expert, Dr. Hard, concluded that there was “a complete systems failure” of the safeguards. Where they did operate, they were “dysfunctional.” Sandra Calver, Head of Healthcare, and Dr. Oozeerally, the lead GP (still both working at Brook House IRC) gave evidence that these were systemic deficiencies across the detention estate and that they are continuing.
  • What is also “100% unacceptable” according to Dr. Hard was the complicity that doctors and nurses still in post at Brook House IRC played in approving (and at times sanctioning) the use of force, restraints and segregation. This was contrary to their ethical duties.
  • Neither witness from the company currently contracted to provide healthcare at Brook House IRC, were willing to commit to remedying this situation, describing it as a problem across all immigration removal centres that depended on the Home Office to take the lead and make resources available.


Use of force / Control and Restraint (C&R)

  • Mr. Collier, the Inquiry’s expert on Use of Force, was “massively” concerned not only by the use of pain-inducing measures that were banned for being dangerous, but also by the cavalier confidence in those responsible that they will not be found out.
  • Too many staff may profess they “love doing C&R” (testimony of Owen Syred) and vulnerable detainees were in the hands of uncaring, disbelieving staff “whose default position was to make their life difficult” (testimony of Owen Syred) and other employees who enabled such mistreatment by their inaction


Abusive, corrupted culture that dehumanises people in detention

  • An environment desensitised to the suffering of detainees allowed an abusive culture to thrive and become normal including highly derogatory, racist language and attitudes. This was not just a sub-culture among ‘core groups’ of custody officers; it was the dominant culture, able to inculcate new staff members, engendered through intimidation, bullying and fear, and it normalised complicity and the silence of others (highlighted by the evidence of Owen Syred a Detention Custody Officer).
  • The casual recurring use of the phrase by custodial staff when dealing with detained persons: “If he dies, he dies” was telling. The officers’ attempt at an explanation – that it was a quote from a movie – reflects how callous, brutal and violent the indifference was toward detained persons, and their failure to recognise this.
  • Virtually all G4S officers who gave evidence attributed their use of derogatory and abusive language to everyday ‘banter’ behind closed doors, and as a way to ‘fit in’.  One officer, Daniel Lake, said “think of it as a sheep in a herd. You know, I’m just following suit what everyone else did, just using the terminology that was used”. These attitudes and practices became embedded within the culture with alarming ease, creating a context of impunity and providing the conditions for racism, violence and abuse to thrive.
  • Dehumanising attitudes included a commonplace disbelief around detained people self-harming which was characterised as attention-seeking, manipulative behaviour calculated to avoid removal, and requiring a coercive response, rather than a trigger for review of detention, consideration of the vulnerability of the individual and the possibility of release: “if you are self harming you’re an attention seeking little prick”.
  • The head of healthcare, conceded that the language used by nursing staff was inappropriate, dehumanising and degrading but maintained that derogatory comments about detained people by clinical staff may be permissible if made “in a safe space” between officers as a way to let off steam.
  • There was a complete absence of any effective oversight or leadership from senior managers at G4S who had known since at least 2014 that there was a bullying culture among the staff from various witnesses, but took no action taken. This encouraged impunity and gave further protection to the dominant toxic culture and sanctioned it by their inaction, silence or indifference.
  • It is apparent from all of the many sources of evidence received by the Inquiry that the toxic and morally corrupted culture was pervasive. There was a complete deprivation of systemic safeguards, both inherent in the design of policy and in its operation across the whole centre.
  • Racism – the worst kind of dehumanisation – thrived. It served as both the precipitant and the justification for unchecked mistreatment and abuse, and reckless indifference to the mental suffering, humiliation and anguish of the detained population as a whole and individually.
  • The absence of regulation and constraint on staff allowed this culture to thrive and permitted overt acts of physical and verbal violence and mistreatment, seen on Panorama, to take place with impunity and without regard to the physical and mental harm that the detained people suffered, and even at times, to whether they lived or died.


A “perfect storm” of conditions for abuse and ill-treatment to occur and reoccur

  • Medical Justice’s Dr. Bingham described the combination of conditions at Brook House as  “perfect storm” for abuse and ill-treatment of vulnerable people to occur and reoccur. The Inquiry’s clinical expert, Dr. Hard, agreed.
  • The Inquiry painted a vivid picture of an extremely harmful machine out of anyone’s control with enough moving parts for each person involved to effectively point to someone else as being responsible.  This is exacerbated by multiple layers of outsourcing.
  • All the evidence points to the inevitable conclusion that Brook House IRC was an inhumane and degrading environment in 2017 which was not identified by the Home Office, by those who run Brook House IRC or by the official bodies who monitor it – only by uncover reporting.
  • The Inquiry’s chair, Kate Eves, expressed concern for 5 people currently detained at Brook House IRC who are on suicide watch.


This is the only public inquiry there has ever been into immigration detention

  • All the many previous reviews and investigations into immigration detention did not result in significant, lasting change.  This Public Inquiry has had the ability to compel the participation of all those (except Ministers) who have played a part in the establishment and running of an IRC and for them to be cross-examined, with input from expert Core Participants, including Medical Justice and formally detained people. This has enabled investigation into all the inter-related elements of a complex machine, from all angles, exposing the true extent of systemic failures and mistreatment.
  • The Inquiry has been a unique opportunity for the public to understand the harm caused by detention and for those who have been abused, who have bravely given evidence, to confront the faceless men and women in suits responsible; not just those in uniforms.




Oral evidence can be watched from Dr Rachel Bingham (Medical Justice Clinical Advisor) starts at 25 mins and Theresa Schleicher (Medical Justice Casework Manager) starts at 1 hour 57 mins.

Human Rights Acts Consultation Submission

The government plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights. The suggested reforms will create new obstacles in human rights claims, such as requiring claimants to prove suffering a ‘significant disadvantage’ and having ‘good behaviour’. It restricts the application of human rights in deportation cases, and changes how rights are balanced against each other. The framing is problematic, for example the reforms suggest a need to ‘make sure deportations that are in the public interest are not frustrated by human rights claims’ to ‘more effectively address…the impediments arising from the Convention and the Human Rights Act to tackling the challenges posed by illegal and irregular migration’. Our submissions rejected their proposals and looked at the impact that they would have on our work/clients.

Read our submission here