Consecutive government policies claiming to protect vulnerable people from the harmful impact of detention have failed to achieve their stated purpose and many continue to suffer avoidable harm in immigration detention. This report tells the story of some of those whom the policies failed.

The Home Office commissioned Stephen Shaw, a former Prison and Probation Ombudsman, to review the use of immigration detention in 2016. Following the highly critical Shaw review, which found that detention was being used too frequently, that too many people were ending up in detention and that safeguards were inadequate, we were hopeful that there may be significant reform addressing the systemic issues.

However, the government’s response – the so called Adults at Risk policy – has not achieved this aim and is not fit for purpose. What follows in this report is an outline of how the system fails individuals caught up in it, how people known to be at increased risk of harm in detention continue to be detained in what is widely accepted to be a harmful environment. Also the safeguards fail to identify the predictable deterioration of vulnerable detainees until serious harm has been inflicted; harm which may take years to recover from, if at all. This continues whilst ministers and civil servants loudly repeat their commitment to not detaining vulnerable people and despite all the evidence available of the harm detention inflicts.

The kinds of stories featured here should never happen. All of the people featured in this report are clients of Medical Justice.