Parents are fully aware of and understand their detention, following their arrival at the centre and on release. Parents are supported by the centre staff to freely exercise their legal rights.

13. Detainees understand why they are detained and are informed about the progress of their case.

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

  • Detainees have a named and easily accessible Home Office contact to answer their questions and keep them informed of the progress on their case. Detainees are given the name and contact details of the responsible Home Office case owner.
  • On site Home Office staff meet with detainees within 24 hours of arrival to answer questions and explain individual reasons for their detention, appeal and bail rights, how to obtain good quality legal representation and any other relevant matters.
  • Detainees are given progress reports at least monthly and following any change of circumstances or submission of new information to the Home Office. Reports focus on progress and do not simply repeat previous information.
  • All information is given to detainees in a language and format they understand. Interpreters are always available in interviews to allow detainees to express themselves fully, and understand their rights and any important decisions.

14. Casework is progressed promptly and reviewed effectively to reduce the potential harmful impact of ongoing detention.

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

  • Casework is progressed promptly and case planning ensures that detention is for the shortest period that is reasonable to reduce the potential harmful impact of ongoing detention.
  • There is effective oversight of case planning.
  • Families are only held in exceptional circumstances and for the minimum time. The individual welfare needs of the child are taken into account when deciding whether to detain and throughout the detention process.
  • Detention is reviewed regularly, taking full account of factors for and against the decision to detain, alternatives to detention, and any information/assessment of vulnerability29 held by the centre.

29There is no universally agreed definition of vulnerability in detention. As Stephen Shaw’s 2016 report (Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons: A Report to the Home Office, CM9186) points out, some commentators consider all of those in detention to be vulnerable because they are detained. Others prefer to describe groups that are in ‘situations of vulnerability’, as opposed to intrinsically vulnerable groups, thereby stressing the largely contextual nature of vulnerability. It is common for groups such as those with serious mental or physical health problems, children, elderly people, pregnant women, LGBTI people, people with disabilities, asylum-seekers, and those who have experienced torture, trafficking or gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, to be considered especially at risk of harm or neglect in detention. In these Expectations, we use the terms ‘vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerability’ to refer to these groups, but also to any other individuals or groups who may be at risk of harm or neglect as a result of other personal, social and environmental factors; these factors may be fixed or change over time and the degree of vulnerability may change as a result.

15. Detainees have effective access to independent legal representation.

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

  • Detainees are able to speedily obtain regulated and good quality legal advice and representation in a language and format they understand, including prompt and unrestricted access to advice surgeries when needed.
  • Detainees receive information on how to complain about poor quality legal representation. Centre staff are alert to detainees being exploited by poor or fraudulent advisers.
  • Detainees are able to contact their legal representatives without impediment and can take copies of legal documents before sending them to legal representatives, the Home Office, tribunal or courts.
  • Detainees are able to communicate with their legal representatives confidentially by phone, fax, letter, email and video conferencing.
    • In appropriate cases, detainees are able to have their legal representatives, and interpreter if necessary, present during interviews with immigration staff and are provided with a copy of interview notes or recordings.
  • Detainees have prompt and unrestricted access to private legal visits.
  • Appropriate childcare facilities are provided during legal and immigration interviews.
  • Legal representatives have access to their laptops and a phone, and can arrange to pay for the centre’s telephone interpretation facilities if needed.
  • Detainees have prompt access to their Home Office and medical records and are advised of their right to request them.
  • External doctors commissioned to report on the health of detainees are given prompt access.
  • Detainees have access to up-to-date legal textbooks, their personal documentation and other reports or material necessary to help their immigration or asylum case.
  • Detainees are easily able to make applications for release. Bail application forms and information about procedures are available.

Human rights standards

Legal rights
In relation to expectations 13–15 above: Human rights standards permit detention for immigration purposes only in accordance with law and only as a measure of last resort. Detainees must have the reasons for their detention explained to them and be able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. See EPR 30.3; BOP 9–14; TGFR 6–9; ECHR 5; ICCPR 9; UNHCR–DG 4, 7; CPT 1, 2. Children should only be detained in exceptional circumstances and for the shortest possible period of time. See CPT 10; CRC 9, 37(b), HR 2; UNHCR–DG 9.2.

In addition, standards require detainees to be able to access independent legal advice and to be allowed confidential visits and correspondence with their legal representative. See EPR 23; BOP 17, 18; SMR 61; BRPL 8; CPT 2.