Dover Immigration Removal Centre - a mixed report

Dover was working reasonably well in some respects, but needed to feel more like an immigration removal centre, not the prison it once was, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an inspection of the immigration removal centre (IRC) in Kent.

Situated in a 19th century fort on the cliffs above the town, Dover has been an IRC since 2002. It is managed by the Prison Service and holds up to 280 adult and young adult men. At the time of the inspection, the centre was anticipating the arrival of a newly appointed centre manager. In recent years inspectors have described a satisfactory institution that was making steady progress. At this inspection there were many aspects of Dover that worked well but some significant shortcomings that needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • Dover was a safe institution and although fewer detainees than expected said they felt safe on their first night, these negative perceptions improved as detainees settled in;
  • recorded incidents of violence and self-harm were low and there was little evidence of bullying;
  • use of separation and segregation was encouragingly low;
  • the assessment of torture survivors had improved and had correctly led to some releases;
  • diversity work was reasonably good, although the provision of translated material was limited;
  • about half of detainees felt they could fill their time while at the centre and there was a reasonable amount of paid work on offer, and education available; and
  • welfare officers were able to offer good basic support to detainees but many detainees did not know about them.

However inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • some physical aspects of security were excessive and some house blocks had prison-like environments;
  • the reward scheme was inappropriate and its application was punitive;
  • immigration processes impacted on detainees’ stress levels and their sense of safety and too many did not have an immigration lawyer;
  • the management of cases was too slow;
  • some uniformed staff were dismissive and unhelpful and in some cases, unprofessional; and
  • arrangements to support detainees prior to removal or release were very limited.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Dover IRC is currently experiencing a period of transition in management, and this should be seen as an opportunity. Many arrangements and much of the provision at Dover work adequately well with pockets of good practice. The institution has not been a prison for over 12 years but in many respects it is still run like one. As indicated in previous reports, the centre needs to give greater emphasis to the specific needs of detainees and respond proportionately to the risks it faces.”

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. Dover IRC detains adult and young adult men who are subject to immigration control. It is run by HM Prison Service.
4. This joint inspection was carried out from 3-14 March 2014.
5. Please contact Jane Parsons on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information or to request an interview with Nick Hardwick.