Heathrow holding rooms urgently require residential facilities for individuals and families held for long periods, IMB Heathrow STHF reports

In its annual report on the short-term holding facilities, published today, the Heathrow Airport IMB welcomes the fact that work has, at last, been completed on rebuilding and refurbishing the holding rooms at Terminals 3 and 4.  However, it repeats its recommendation from previous years that there is a need for a residential holding facility at the airport.  Almost 20,000 people, including 1,300 children, were detained at Heathrow in 2016.  People arriving at the airport claiming political asylum are especially likely to be detained for many hours, including overnight, in accommodation that is far from satisfactory.

The Board also continues to see examples of detainees, including families, being moved to Immigration Removal Centres for the night to allow them to sleep, only to be brought back to the airport so quickly that adequate rest will have been impossible.

IMB Chair, John Hutchings, said: “Overall we have found airport staff to be caring and sympathetic to detainees, including children and other vulnerable people, but as people are often held for long periods of time, suitable facilities for people to rest and sleep are urgently needed.  Holding rooms are unsuitable for detaining disabled people and children, other than for the briefest period.  Detainees are not allowed access to any drugs and medicines they have in their possession, even though this may put their health and well-being at risk.”

Where detainees are being removed from the United Kingdom, whether this is escorted or unescorted, it is generally undertaken in a satisfactory manner with any use of force proportionate to the case.  The Board’s observation of a family removal showed that it was carried out with a great deal of sensitivity to the needs of the children concerned.

The Board regrets the Home Secretary’s continuing failure to publish the long-waited Short Term Holding Facility Rules which would put its work on a statutory footing.  The delay has created the anomalous situation that, unlike Heathrow, the four other London airports still lack IMBs to monitor the welfare of individuals and families detained in immigration custody