Force is only used as a last resort and for legitimate reasons. Detainees are placed in the separation unit on proper authority, for safety reasons only and are held in the unit for the shortest possible period.

19. Detainees are only subject to force as a last resort when other methods have failed. When used, force is legitimate, necessary and proportionate, and subject to rigorous governance.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Staff are trained in and routinely use de-escalation techniques.
  • Restraints are used as a last resort and for the shortest possible period.
  • Staff are not routinely equipped with items, such as batons, that are not in keeping with the ethos of immigration detention.
  • Planned use of force is properly authorised and video recorded. All staff involved in the use of force complete appropriate reports promptly and in detail.
  • Health staff recognise risks associated with restraint and attend all planned uses of force and other incidents wherever possible, to share relevant health information and ensure the detainee’s safety.
  • All detainees and staff involved in a use of force incident are debriefed as soon as possible following the incident.
  • Detainees are not located in unfurnished accommodation, or placed in mechanical restraints or anti-rip clothing, except as a last resort and with proper authorisation.
  • Use of force data are monitored and any emerging patterns are identified and acted on.
  • Use of force documentation and associated CCTV or video footage is scrutinised by senior managers to identify opportunities for improvement and possible ill-treatment. Any concerns are investigated, lessons are learned and appropriate action taken.
  • There is effective oversight of use of force by the Home Office and Independent Monitoring Board.

20. Detainees are held safely and decently in the separation unit for the shortest possible period and for legitimate reasons only.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Detainees are separated with the proper authorisation and only to keep other detainees safe.
  • Detainees are given the reasons for single separation in writing and in a language they understand, within two hours.
  • Decisions to separate are made in consultation with health care professionals.
  • Separation units are not used to manage risks arising from a detainee’s vulnerability, such as mental illness or risk of self-harm.
  • If the centre cannot safely manage detainees in the normal location, they are referred to the Home Office for an immediate review of detention.
  • Detainees are never subjected to a regime which amounts to solitary confinement.6
  • A multidisciplinary staff group monitors detainees held in separation to ensure they are held there as a last resort and for the shortest time possible.
  • Detainees kept separated are monitored daily for their physical, emotional and mental well-being. Staff keep accurate records of the behaviour of detainees to ensure continuity of care.
  • Those in single separation are allowed access to religious ministers, books, education staff, phones, exercise, social and legal visitors and a daily shower.

6‘Solitary confinement’ is when detainees are confined alone for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact (United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners, Rule 44).

Human rights standards

Use of force and single separation
In relation to expectations 19 and 20 above: Human rights standards only allow for the use of force and restraints when absolutely necessary and as a measure of last resort. If it is absolutely necessary to use force or restraint, this must be the minimum necessary and only imposed for the time period required. There must be clear procedures governing the use of force and restraint.

In relation to restraint, see SMR 47–49; EPR 68, CPT 6, 7. In relation to the use of force see SMR 82; EPR 64–66; BPUFF 15.

As with any restrictions imposed on people already deprived of their liberty, human rights standards require that segregation or other practices that isolate detainees must only be used when absolutely necessary, for the shortest time possible, and be proportionate to the legitimate objective for which they are imposed. Because of the harm that can be caused by isolation, specific and additional safeguards also need to be in place. See SMR 43–46; CPT 7; UNHCR–DG 9.7[65]; ECHR 3; ICCPR 7; CAT 1, 2, 16.