UK immigration detainees banned from accessing refugee support and human rights websites

The Free Movement blog quotes a recent unannounced official HMIP report on Haslar immigration detention centre which reveals that centre staff had blocked the websites for Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and Amnesty International. According to the report’s authors

Detainees had access to the internet, but some key websites were blocked. The officer on duty in the internet suite could unblock any site. When we visited, the officer agreed to unblock the Bail for Immigration Detainees’ website but not Amnesty International’s without more senior approval.

Colin Yeo writes:

BID is a small charity that informs immigration detainees of their legal rights and the immigration bail process and who co-ordinates free representation that many immigration barristers, myself included, provide on a rota basis. Amnesty International is somewhat better known and amongst other things provides country information essential for fighting asylum claims and gathers data about human rights abuses in detention.

I wonder what other websites were blocked? AVID have been working on this issue and I have reported on it previously. There seems to be a discretion to block websites at each detention centre.

On a similar note, the inspection found that the number of detainees who had managed to see their lawyer had halved since 2009, falling from 51% to 26%, “welfare” staff wrongly prevented some detainees from attending legal surgeries and the Home Office broke procedure rules by withholding the documents for bail hearings.

So why would the profit making private companies responsible for immigration detention want to block access to websites that might inform detainees of their bail rights and allow them to report abuses, reduce access to lawyers, prevent detainees from preparing their own asylum cases properly, all thereby increasing the pool of immigration detainees? Answers on a postcard, please.

Restrictions on detainees’ access to mobile phones, faxes and websites and contacts with refugee support organisations, legal representatives, independent medical care and even international human rights monitors have been widely reported and are consistent with the Home Secretary’s intention to create an increasingly ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers following the passing of the 2014 Immigration Act. The Home Office knows that cutting detainees off from the outside world is an effective way of denying detained asylum seekers access to justice. Refugee rights groups and human rights organisations must unite in condemning this disgraceful censorship and hold the Home Office and its private contractors properly to account for breaking its own procedures.

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