Shaw Review on UK immigration detention: four more key findings

Report finds severely mentally ill are dumped in solitary confinement


Bunches and Bits (Karina)/Flickr


Last week the “Shaw Review” into the UK’s treatment of vulnerable people in immigration detention was released. At 350 pages, the report is one of the largest ever reviews into the UK immigration detention system. We continue our ongoing coverage of the report with four more key findings.


1. Mentally ill locked up in solitary confinement rather than treated

The Shaw Review found evidence that throughout the immigration detention estate, “temporary confinement is sometimes used in the absence of access to appropriate mental healthcare,” including for those suffering from “acute psychotic episodes”.  Using uncharacteristically strong language, Mr. Shaw warns:

“Use of segregation under these circumstances (and particularly extended use) is not consonant with detainees’ welfare, and may represent cruel and unusual punishment

Stephen Shaw, the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, calls for the removal of an Immigration Act clause which permits continued immigration detention on the basis of mental illness, calling it “entirely inappropriate“.


2. A dozen deaths in immigration detention 

Twelve deaths have taken place in detention since July 2011, following the widely reported unlawful killing of Jimmy Mubenga in 2010 through excessive restraint by escort guards on a deportation flight.

The report adds that there have been a total of 26 deaths in immigration detention since 1989. Of these – not including the death of Mr Mubenga – nine were suicides, twelve were determined to be the result of natural causes, one was a murder and for three “the cause is no longer known or is uncertain”.

Prison Watch UK is appealing for more information about one of these uncertain deaths: the suspicious death of 31 year old Prince Ofosu or Kwabena Fosu from Ghana.



Mrs. Mubenga with a banner of Jimmy Mubenga Image: 4WardEver Campaign UK/Flickr


3. Websites “blocked inappropriately”

Websites which are frequently blocked for detainees include the BBC, Amnesty International, Skype and Facebook, as well as other NGO and news sites. Mr. Shaw concludes:

“I fully appreciate the need for appropriate security measures, but I do not believe there is any rational case for continuing the blanket ban on Skype and Facebook and like services, or for preventing access to websites that support detainees in their immigration claims, help prepare them for return, or facilitate contact with their families and friends.”





4. Up to 40% of detention admissions are transfers from other centres

In 2005-06, University of Exeter professors stated that £6.5 million was spent moving people around different detention centres. Mr Shaw reports:  “I am not aware of a more recent estimate; I assume that the current cost to the public purse must be significantly higher.”

While transfers are sometimes necessary for reasons such as the need to move someone closer to an airport for a scheduled deportation, many of the moves appear unnecessary and arbitrary. Multiple transfers often mean that a detainee’s medical treatment is disrupted or discontinued.

In his most direct criticism of the UK detention system throughout the report, Mr Shaw concludes of the transfer logistics system: “welfare issues are evidently not paramount. In an ethical system, they would be.”



Image: Dave/Flickr


Do you know any more about abuse at UK immigration detention centres? If so, please email us at 

One Comment on “Shaw Review on UK immigration detention: four more key findings”

  1. […] can find Prison Watch UK’s coverage of the key findings of the Shaw Review here, here and […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s