Dame Anne Owers, National Chair, Independent Monitoring Boards, today wrote to a range of interested organisation as follows to launch a new 0800 freephone messaging service for people in immigration detention to contact their IMB::
During the COVID-19 outbreak, some IMBs are able to visit immigration removal centres, but a great deal of monitoring is, by necessity, happening remotely – including dealing with applications (complaints/requests) from detainees.
Because COVID-19 inevitably limits direct contact between IMB members and detainees, Boards have been exploring alternative ways for people in detention to get in touch with them. They have already arranged for detainees to contact them via dedicated email addresses.
Today, IMBs which monitor immigration removal centres have launched a freephone IMB Applications Line for detainees to contact Boards. This will enable them to leave a voicemail about their concern, together with their CID number and contact details. An IMB member will review the messages and pass them onto the relevant Board. An IMB member will then respond, usually by phone as detainees are able to have access to a mobile.
The freephone messaging service will be piloted 24 hours a day at all IRCs for an initial period of six to eight weeks, from today Monday 4 May. Publicity materials are being sent to the centres for distribution and will also be available in nine languages but the number is not being promoted beyond the centres, to ensure that lines are kept open exclusively for people in detention.
Boards hope that this innovative approach will provide extra reassurance for detainees at this difficult time; they will be carrying out regular reviews of the pilot and feedback from people in detention about the service and the organisations supporting them would be very helpful – contact firstname.lastname@example.org.