Asylum centre extension 'like an oppressive prison'

Plans to create Europe's biggest asylum removal centre at Heathrow Airport have been condemned by inspectors, who say detention conditions will be like an "oppressive prison".

The controversial extension to Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre will more than double the number of refugees and immigrants held there from 259 to 623 when the new wing opens next month. The super-removal centre was brought in by Labour as part of its policy of deporting more failed asylum seekers at faster rates.

But a report published today by Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, says that this would provide "prison-type accommodation, in small and somewhat oppressive cells – at odds with the atmosphere and facilities in the current centre."

Ms Owers added: "It would also double the population, making Harmondsworth the biggest removal centre in Europe. This combination will pose a considerable challenge to managers in seeking to embed recent progress and run a single, safe and decent centre."

Her findings are echoed by the detention centre's official monitoring agency, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which has been granted unsupervised visits to Harmondsworth.

In its annual report the board says it "deplores the fact that new wings built at Harmondsworth offer lower standards of decency than the facilities they replace."

The report, published yesterday, found: "The new rooms, to be shared by two people, are based on prison cells, with toilets located inside the room, behind limited screening."

Harmondsworth has had a troubled history and in 2006 the Chief Inspector branded it the worst immigration removal centre the watchdog had ever inspected.

Since then, inspections have charted a slow but steady progress from this low point. However, Ms Owers said the opening of a new block, doubling the size of the centre and built to higher security prison standards, would pose a challenge to these improvements.

While Ms Owers' report noted that progress had been made in the conditions of detention and the relationship between staff and detainees, the inspectors found serious concerns about the quality of healthcare.

The inspectors said that staff did not fully take into account evidence of mental ill-health or previous torture suffered by the detainees.

Inspectors also noted with concern that healthcare was unacceptably poor, in terms of the approach of healthcare staff and the quality and quantity of provision, particularly in relation to mental health and primary care. They said there was a need to improve procedures for monitoring and preventing suicide, self-harm and bullying.

Anne Owers said: "This is the most positive report we have issued on Harmondsworth. It reflects considerable work by managers and staff to improve the approach and provision at a difficult centre, with a mixed population, some of it very transient. This is to be commended. There is, however, further work to be done, both by the centre and the UK Border Agency."

David Wood, strategic director for criminality and detention at the UK Border Agency, said: "The expansion of Harmondsworth will allow the UK Border Agency to remove even more foreign criminals and failed asylum seekers. We will work with our contractors to make sure the improvements praised by the HMCIP report continue."

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to tea...

Digital Fundraising Analyst/Web Analyst - West Sussex - Permanent - £30k DOE

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Application Support Engineer – 6 month FTC – West Sussex - £26k-£28k pro rata

£26000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?