Heathrow IRC 2019 annual report published

Independent monitors at Heathrow immigration removal centre call for detention time limit


The Independent Monitoring Board at Heathrow immigration removal centre (IRC) – made up of volunteers appointed by ministers to ensure that detainees are treated  humanely – today published its annual report for 2019.

Tony Swabe, Heathrow IMB Chair, said:

“We are in a very different position today because of the coronavirus and the effect on Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) than in the reporting year (2019). Despite that, our recommendations for change made in the Independent Monitoring Board’s Annual Report are still very relevant and would improve the position for detainees when life returns to normal.

“Many of these recommendations relate to human rights where in some areas the UK’s immigration detention arrangements fall below the standard set by other democratic countries. The recommendation that foreign national offenders should where possible be removed to their home countries directly from prisons, rather than being moved to an immigration removal centre first, would be more efficient in terms of resources and would be welcomed by many offenders.”

The Board’s main recommendations are:


To the Home Office

To limit the time period of immigration detention as is the case in other Western democratic states.

A periodic review mechanism should be created fully independent of the immigration authorities for detainees held for more than six months, with powers to make binding recommendations to supplement the automatic bail review at the four-month period.

Detainees with identified serious mental health illness should not be held in an immigration removal centre.

Detention of people requiring social care should only be in circumstances where their needs for personal assistance can adequately be met.

The local Home Office detainee engagement team should provide monthly statistics regarding, the monitoring of the Adults at Risk policy and the details of long stayers.

The Home Office’s compliance team should more closely monitor the contractor’s investigation of complaints to ensure an independent evaluation is made.

To facilitate closer liaison with the Mitie escort company to avoid failures to provide escorts to allow planned removals.

The number of foreign national offenders entering the centre should be reduced by earlier action to remove them direct from the prison system.


To Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust

More GP resources should be provided to minimise the delay in the Rule 35 procedure which assesses a detainee to determine whether someone is at risk of suicide, has been subjected to torture or whose health is significantly affected by continued detention.


To Mitie (Care and Custody)

Handcuffing of detainees while being transported outside the centre should be further reduced significantly, balancing risk with detainee dignity.

Further improvements should be made to standards of cleaning and maintenance to improve the living environment for detainees.

Greater attention should be paid to the adults at risk register to ensure vulnerable detainees are monitored closely to avoid incidents of self-harm and to ensure they are safe within the centre.

As complaints about missing detainee property are significant, the checking of property on admission and on transfer to another room in the centre requires attention.