Slow progress in making improvements to the holding rooms at Heathrow STHF

In its annual report published today, the IMB for Heathrow short term holding facility welcomes the fact that work has now started on the rebuilding and refurbishment of some of the terminals’ holding rooms, although the wait to get to this point has been disappointing. However, it repeats itsrecommendation from previous years that there is a real need for a residential holding facility at Heathrow and also re-states its strong belief that the holding rooms are totally unsuitable for the detention of children beyond the very briefest period. None of the holding rooms provide satisfactory overnight accommodation. The Board has also seen 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.

Tascor, the company contracted by the Home Office to manage the holding rooms, and Border Force staff are usually caring and sympathetic to detainees, including children and other vulnerable people, but there have been considerable problems in enabling detainees to make phone calls and they have little or no opportunity to obtain independent legal advice. Detainees have no access to non-prescription pain-killing drugs, even when the need is obvious.

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 small number of family removals showed these were carried out with a great deal of sensitivity to the needs of the children concerned.

Information for Editors:
Heathrow Airport Independent Monitoring Board is appointed by the Home Secretary to monitor and report on the welfare of people in immigration detention at the airport. Board members are unpaid volunteers, who visit the airport usually twice a week.
Immigration detainees are held in separate holding rooms at each of the terminals at Heathrow. A further facility is used to accommodate people awaiting removal. Over 20,000 people, including more than 1,200 children, were detained at Heathrow in 2015.

The holding rooms are described in Section 4 of the Report. The detention of children is dealt with in Section 8.

A summary of the report’s findings is in Section 2.

The report contains numerous examples of how individual passengers have been treated at Heathrow.