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May to announce review into welfare of detained immigrants

Home secretary Theresa May is set to announce an independent review of the welfare of immigrants held in detention centres today.

The review, to be led by former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw, will be wide-ranging and will look into whether “improvements can be made to safeguard the health and wellbeing of detainees held in immigration removal centres and short-term holding facilities, as well as those being escorted in the UK”.

It is set to last about six months and will report back after the general election. It will focus especially on pregnant women, elderly people and those with disabilities and mental health issues.

Shaw will visit detention facilities and examine Home Office policies and operational practices. He is expected to focus on the appropriateness of Home Office policies on the welfare of vulnerable people in detention, particularly safeguarding the mental and physical health of detainees.

May said: “Immigration detention is a vital tool in helping ensure those with no right to remain in the UK are returned to their home country. But I take the welfare of those in the government’s care very seriously and I want to ensure the health and wellbeing of all detainees, some of whom may be vulnerable, is safeguarded at all times. We must ensure it treats those we are removing from the UK with an equal sense of fairness.”

There are 11 immigration removal centres in the UK, with 4,000 beds that are estimated to have held more than 30,000 people at different times in 2013.

The announcement of the new review comes as May prepares to publish a highly critical report on the mental health of detainees, prepared for her by the Tavistock Institute.

It is expected she will respond to the findings by preparing new guidelines for how mentally ill people must be treated in detention centres, including stressing the primacy of Department of Health advice.

(Image source: Oli Scarff/PA Wire)

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