Heathrow holding rooms require better facilities for children and other vulnerable individuals held for long periods

In its annual report on the short-term holding facilities the Heathrow Airport IMB welcomes the fact that although conditions in the holding rooms have been considerably improved, they still fail to provide satisfactory overnight sleeping accommodation at a time when lengths of detention for some people have become unacceptably long:

  • Nearly two thousand people were detained for over twelve hours, 231 of them for over 24 hours
  • People seeking political asylum, including those arriving possibly traumatised from war zones, are most likely to experience longer periods of detention, including overnight stays
  • Over a thousand children, either in family groups or unaccompanied, spent time in the holding rooms, some of them for twelve hours or more.  The Board strongly takes the view that the rooms are unsuitable for the detention of children beyond the very briefest period
  • Facilities for the detention of mentally ill people are totally inadequate.  In one case a man assessed as too disturbed to be admitted to the community, spent over four days in a holding room while immigration officers negotiated with various mental health authorities to try to get somebody to take responsibility for him.  He eventually went to detention in an Immigration Removal Centre, an extremely unsatisfactory outcome.

IMB Chair, John Hutchings, said: “Overall we have found many detention and escort staff to be caring and sympathetic to the detainees they have to manage, including vulnerable individuals and families.  However, the holding rooms can never be a friendly environment, especially for those individuals who are waiting for long periods, are tired and anxious after their flights, and in some cases are fearful of what will happen to them if they are sent back to their own country.

Read report in full here.