Cedars pre-departure accomodation and overseas family escort - well managed but more to do

Cedars is a high-quality, well managed institution but more should be done to reduce the stress of removal, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the pre-departure accommodation near Gatwick.

Cedars provides pre-departure accommodation for families subject to immigration control who are being removed from the UK. This was its second inspection. Forty-two families had been held there during 2013 for an average of just over three days. Inspectors accompanied families under escort to and from the centre from the point of initial arrest. Inspectors also inspected the progress of a family from the point of arrest by immigration officers to the point they arrived in their home country following an escorted removal flight.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the needs of children were not central enough to the arrest process and in one case, extreme force was used for several minutes to batter down a family’s door early in the morning, which would have been terrifying for children had they been in the property;
  • a number of families were still detained on more than one occasion, which was a particularly disruptive upheaval for children, both emotionally and practically; and
  • while escorts were managed reasonably well, some light-touch restraint by escort staff was unnecessary and escalated at least one situation.

The important role that Barnardo’s staff played in the centre had been maintained and helped to ensure that the needs of children were uppermost in the minds of all staff.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the high-quality residential units and grounds provided a decent environment for families and children of all ages;
  • the careful planning for each family had been sustained and in some respects improved;
  • the level of individual care and attention for families on their reception into the centre remained exceptional;
  • despite undergoing an extremely stressful experience, families spoke highly of the care given to them by all staff; and
  • in accordance with recommendations we had made previously, staff had been instructed not to use force against pregnant women or children unless it was to prevent harm.

Force had been used against five of the 42 families. Most was low level and it was subject to rigorous governance.

Nick Hardwick said:

“The distress experienced by parents and children who are subject to enforced removals is palpable for anyone who spends time in their company in Cedars. More should be done to address the jarring experiences some families have before arrival at Cedars, and to reduce the stress of removal. However, Cedars itself remains an example of best practice in caring for families who are to be removed. It has maintained effective joint working to mitigate the needs of some of the most vulnerable people subject to immigration control, and remains an exceptional facility.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Read the report.

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 unannounced inspection was carried out from 6-27 January 2014.

4. Cedars pre-departure accommodation is tasked with the detention, care and welfare of families subject to immigration control prior to removal from the UK. Families may be detained in the centre for up to 72 hours but this period may be extended by ministerial authority to one week. It is run by G4S. The escort provider is Tascor.

5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview.