Home Office actions led foreign prisoners to self harm, report finds

 Home Office actions led foreign prisoners to self harm, report finds

The Home Office’s treatment of foreign prisoners led them to self harm, a report has found.

A review of prisons across the country raised concerns about the way the Government department dealt with inmates who are foreign nationals.

Groups have said the findings have shown the “systematic failure” by the Home Office, with the shadow home secretary calling for “urgent” action over the “shameful” revelations.

The report, published today by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), said that as a result of the Home Office refusing to engage with prisoners, those in cells started to self harm.

In HMP Maidstone, staff from the department refused to deal with inmates to the extent that they slid paperwork under cell doors.

The report said that this was a trigger for “negative behaviours including self harm, which increased by over 40 per cent in the last year”.

An inspection of the prison earlier this year also found that the level of contact between the Home Office and prisoners was cited as a “major cause of stress and anxiety leading to self-harm”.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary said: “This report is damning, showing that Conservative incompetence has led to an increase in self-harm. This is shameful.

“The Home Secretary must – urgently – respond to the report and set out how these dangerous failures will be addressed.”

In 2020, there were 219 self-harming incidents recorded by the prison, which only takes foreign nationals, compared to 154 the year before.

In June last year, a Romanian prisoner was found hanged in his cell.

Foreign prisoners, like those at Maidstone, are sometimes detained under immigration powers after a prisoner has served their sentence.

Today’s report noted that it was concerned with the growing number of prisoners being detained under immigration powers, noting that “contact with the Home Office was almost non-existent.”

In HMP Cardiff, no Home Office representative attended for five months between April and August last year.

Annie Viswanathan, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees said: “Sadly the remarks made by IMB are part of a pattern of mistreatment and systematic failure by the Home Office.

“During the lockdown people in prisons have been held in their cells often for 23.5 hours per day in conditions that amount to prolonged solitary confinement, an unimaginably harmful form of treatment that has been banned by the UN.

“It is even worse for immigration detainees, who are held indefinitely at the end of their sentence, for administrative reasons.

“As we highlighted in research published earlier this year, the harm caused has been immense. Our clients detained in prisons report being in a state of endless despair, and physical symptoms include involuntary shaking, memory loss and physical pain.

“The Home Office has failed to give any consideration to these issues in decisions to detain and during the same period we have overseen a sharp increase in the number of people who are detained in prisons for immigration purposes.

“It is no wonder that the IMB finds that the Home Office has directly contributed to a rise in self-harm.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, Immigration Enforcement has been responding to the unique circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak. We have staff deployed within prisons to help meet the needs of foreign national offenders, including managing and monitoring all who are serving a custodial sentence and providing a direct link between them and Immigration Enforcement.

“It is right that we do what we can to remove foreign national offenders and since January we have removed 8,441.”

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