Cedars pre-departure accommodation - an exceptional facility

Cedars is an exceptional facility and has many practices which should be replicated in other areas of detention, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an announced inspection of the pre-departure accommodation near Gatwick.

This is the first inspection of the Cedars pre-departure accommodation, where families are detained for up to a week immediately before removal. It has largely replaced the detention of children in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most of the work from Reliance escort staff was commendable and families were, in general, complimentary about their treatment during escort, even during the stressful removal stage;
  • most of what inspectors saw from the point of arrival at the centre was good and it was clear that it had been designed around the needs of children and families;
  • children were well occupied and said they enjoyed the care and stimulation they received at the centre;
  • the level of care provided by the enthusiastic staff group was exceptional;
  • the physical environment was clean, well maintained and attractive; and
  • parents said that if they were to be removed forcibly, they would rather be held in Cedars for a short time, both to provide time for applications for judicial review, and to help them settle and prepare their children.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although considerable efforts were made to avoid force at the point of removal, it had been used against six of the 39 families going through Cedars;
  • force had been used to effect the removal of a pregnant woman using non-approved techniques; and
  • most work from family escort staff was commendable, but inspectors observed unprofessional behaviour by an officer on a different escort in the hearing of children.

Nick Hardwick said:
‘Cedars is an exceptional facility and has many practices that should be replicated in other places of detention. However, it is also a place that precedes a traumatic dislocation for children who have, in many cases, been born in this country or been here for much of their lives. It is to the considerable credit of staff at Cedars that children held were, in general, happily occupied and that parents were able to concentrate on communication with solicitors, family and friends. This inspection found conditions and treatment exceed by some distance what families have previously experienced before removal. For that reason, staff at Cedars deserve great credit for what has been achieved in circumstances that are never less than sad.’

Notes to editors:

  1. View a copy of the report (587.57 kB).
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. This announced inspection was carried out from 30 April to 25 May 2012.
  4. Cedars holds families before their removal from the UK. The facility is used after advice has been sought from the independent family returns panel, which is made up of people with expertise in child welfare. Families should normally be held there for no more than 72 hours. With ministerial authority, this can be extended to one week. Cedars opened in August 2011 as a secure facility to hold such families. The children’s charity Barnardo’s works alongside G4S custodial staff at the facility.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons on 0207 035 2123 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.