Lawyer warns of staff violence and inadequate care in private immigrant detention centres

Sasha Barton calls on ministers to take much greater responsibility

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The Independent Online

Immigrants held in privately-run detention centres are facing physical violence from staff, gross failures in medical care and at worse preventable death, a leading civil liberties lawyer has warned.

Last week Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said conditions at Yarl’s Wood immigration centre which is run by Serco had deteriorated to such an extent that it was a “place of national concern”.

Sasha Barton, a partner at law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, has now warned in a letter to The Independent that the situation is similar at other privately-run detention centres.

Ms Barton called on ministers to take much greater responsibility for what was being done in their name.

“We have seen physical violence from staff, gross failures in medical care, shambolic record keeping, limited understanding of mental health issues and poor communication between staff, often leading to devastating consequences such as preventable deaths,” she wrote.

“We believe that the impact of the devolution of such public duties to private companies – whose primary duty is to their shareholders and who lack a culture of public service, needs to be properly and urgently assessed.”

The Home Office has said that it is “committed to treating all detainees with dignity and respect”.

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