Morton Hall IRC: Independent report notes improvements as well as continuing concerns

Increase in incidents of self-harm

In its annual report for the year 2018, the Independent Monitoring Board at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre – appointed by ministers to ensure detainees are treated humanely – commends the ethos at the centre of ensuring fair treatment for all the people who are detained there.

The Board observes that every effort is made to treat detainees with dignity and respect. It also notes that the safety, welfare and dignity of detainees are matters of priority.

The report highlights a number of improvements as well as registering some ongoing concerns:

  • It recognises the efforts to improve the standards of decency across the centre. Standards have markedly improved during 2018, though there remains work to be done.
  • Mental healthcare provision has continued to improve and there has been an increase in staffing. The education, library and gymnasium services offered at the centre are also commendable and offer a worthwhile range of activities for residents.
  • The Board questions the suitability of an IRC environment for some detainees, especially those with significant mental health conditions. It feels that such detainees should be accommodated in a more appropriate setting.
  • The IMB is particularly concerned at an increase in the number of incidents of self-harm, often the result of feelings of frustration and uncertainty about being held in detention. The number of incidents of self-harm rose from 181 in 2017 to 217 in 2018.
  • The IMB also remains concerned about the large number of time served foreign national offenders (TSFNOs) present at Morton Hall (typically comprising around half of detainees). The policy of housing detainees with criminal backgrounds alongside detainees with no such background has a marked adverse effect on the safety and welfare of the latter group of detainees.

Malcolm Brock, chair of the Independent Monitoring Board at Morton Hall, said:

“As a board, we see improvements in the conditions for men at Morton Hall but remain concerned about the suitability of a detention environment for some detainees. We recognise the vigilance of staff in identifying detainees who are struggling to cope within the IRC. Nonetheless the increase in incidents of self-harm is a matter of definite concern and is indicative of the difficulties that an uncertain and indefinite length of time in detention presents for the wellbeing of some detainees.”