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Immigration: Detention

House of Lords written question – answered on 27th June 2012.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government under what powers the conduct of enforced returns is contracted out by the UK Border Agency.

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they fulfil their investigative obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to services contracted out by the UK Border Agency; and how they ensure that the internal review mechanisms of the contractors used by the UK Border Agency and their subcontractors fulfil the requirement of independent and impartial investigation under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley The Minister of State, Home Department

Section 156 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 provides for the Secretary of State to make arrangements for, among other things, the delivery of detained persons from their places of detention for the purpose of their removal from the UK in accordance with removal directions and to enter into contracts for the provision of detainee custody officers for such a purpose. Section 154 of the 1999 Act requires persons working as detainee custody officers to be accredited by the Secretary of State, while Schedule 13 sets out the powers and duties of such officers when acting in accordance with escort arrangements. Private sector escorting companies also operate within a clear framework set out in operating standards and instructions published on the UK Border Agency's website at: http://www.ukba. homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/managing ourborders/immigrationremovalcentres/.

In the unfortunate event of a death in immigration custody or while under escort, separate independent investigations are carried out by the police, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. There will also be a coroner's inquest (or, in Scotland, a procurator fiscal's investigation). The combination of these investigations meets the investigative obligation arising from Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The UK Border Agency operates a comprehensive complaints system as part of its contract monitoring arrangements. All detainees are told how to complain on arrival at a removal centre and upon escort, and complaints forms are widely available in a range of different languages. Complaints about the use of force are referred to the UK Border Agency's Professional Standards Unit for investigation and are also referred automatically to the police for their own parallel investigation. The Professional Standards Unit uses a team of dedicated investigators, who are all professionally trained to police standards. Where detainees are not satisfied with the outcome of their complaints, they may refer the matter to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and are told at the time how to do so.

The UK Border Agency contract monitor will consider whether an allegation is such that it is appropriate to suspend the certification of any officers involved in that incident pending its investigation. The management of the escorting service will also commission an internal investigation.

Any allegation substantiated by the UK Border Agency will lead to some form of disciplinary action against the person(s) concerned. This ultimately includes the revocation of an individual's accreditation to work as a detainee custody officer. The individual may also face criminal charges if the police and Crown Prosecution Service (or, in Scotland, the procurator fiscal) decides there is evidence that an offence may have been committed.

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