In early May, Medical Justice submitted evidence to the House of Lord’s Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) about changes to the Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention Statutory Guidance (AARSG) that significantly reduce already inadequate protections for vulnerable people in detention. 

The changes were published by the government in draft form, and were brought into effect on 21 May 2023 via secondary legislation. 

The changes include: 

  • removing a previous commitment to reducing the number of vulnerable people in detention and their period of detention. 
  • granting the government the power to seek a second opinion on medical evidence from external providers documenting a person’s vulnerability. Such a provision risks prolonging individuals’ periods of detention and exposing them to further deterioration and harm.  
  • removing a provision whereby victims of torture with a Medico Legal Report from a reputable provider such as Medical Justice were automatically granted the highest level of protection against continued detention. 

Concerns raised by Medical Justice to the SLSC included: 

  • the damaging likely impacts of the AAR SG changes, including more vulnerable individuals being detained, for longer periods or time, with an increased risk of suffering harm including human rights violations (e.g. breaches of Article 3 ECHR). 
  • that the changes run entirely counter to the recommendations of the recent Brook House Inquiry. The Inquiry found that safeguards for vulnerable people in detention should be strengthened, not reduced. 
  • the deficiencies in the Home Office’s ‘consultation’ with NGOs on the changes, including lack of necessary information being provided and too short a time-frame. 

As a result of Medical Justice’s submission, the SLSC put a detailed list of questions to the Home Office about the AARSG changes.  

The SLSC has also issued a report criticising the government’s amendments in a number of different areas. The SLSC’s concerns include that the data provided by the Home Office “does not provide compelling evidence either way on the need for the second opinion policy” and that “the Government has not set out how it will monitor and report on the policy”, despite the fact that the “possible adverse impact of detention on vulnerable people makes these changes controversial”. 

You can read Medical Justice’s submission here, and the SLSC’s questions / Home Office’s answers here 

The SLSC’s full report is available here (pp. 1-5)