Inspector says home secretary halted annual review of ‘adults at risk’ days after he raised concerns
- I warned ministers about our disgraceful UK detention centres. Their solution? Stop the inspections – David Neal
Suella Braverman halted annual inspections of immigration detention centres such as Brook House last year, shortly after ministers received direct warnings that vulnerable people such as torture victims had been left unprotected, the immigration watchdog has disclosed.
In an article for the Guardian, David Neal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI), said the home secretary stopped his annual review of “adults at risk” held in removal centres last September.
The decision came days after Neal specifically warned the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, that protections must be put in place for “vulnerable detainees” and necessary reforms were moving at a “glacial pace”, he wrote.
His comments come as a major inquiry reveals that people detained at Brook House immigration removal centre in 2017 were mistreated in “prison-like” conditions, with staff making dehumanising and racist comments and quick to use force.
Over 140 academic lawyers have signed an open letter to home secretary Suella Braverman calling for an end to public criticism of lawyers.
It comes after media coverage criticising and attacking a Leigh Day partner, Jacqueline McKenzie, and other immigration practitioners.
The letter addressed to the home secretary expressed ‘solidarity’ with McKenzie and accused members of the government of ‘attacking lawyers for advising and representing their clients.
‘It is shocking that the Conservative Party has compiled a “dossier” on Ms Jacqueline McKenzie, a reputable and effective solicitor, and that a media outlet obtained a copy and published the contents,’ the letter reads. ‘We are additionally concerned because Ms McKenzie is a Black woman. Those responsible must have known that inviting negative media attention would expose her to misogynistic and racist threats from some members of the public.’
Unlawful practice still used in Kent was condemned after more than 200 went missing from accommodation
The UK Home Office has placed more than 100 lone asylum-seeker children in hotels in recent weeks, despite the practice having been found unlawful by the high court.
The government’s continued use of hotels has been condemned by human rights and refugee organisations since more than 200 children have gone missing, including dozens who vanished from one hotel in Brighton.
One of the reasons why children continue to be placed in hotels, some for a number of weeks, is that Kent county council says it cannot cope with the number of children arriving. The council’s geographical location means it has responsibility to take into care lone children who arrive at the Kent coast in small boats. It has warned that they are struggling to meet their legal obligations to UK as well as asylum-seeker children.
Both the Home Office and Kent county council have been found by the high court to have acted unlawfully by failing to look after these children properly.
The right to protest is a distinctive feature of democratic, liberal societies. Yet the way in which many leading British politicians are currently talking about Just Stop Oil might make you think otherwise. Far from engaging with the issues at stake in these protests, politicians appear to be encouraging the wider public to ignore them or even oppose them.
Having seen their initial protests largely ignored, Just Stop Oil members have been making more disruptive (but non-violent) protests lately. They’ve been present at high-profile sports events like Wimbledon and the World Snooker Championships.
Policing minister Chris Philp dismissed the temporary delays caused to such events as “completely unacceptable”“. He argued that “the vast majority of the public are appalled by this very, very small, very selfish minority” and called on those not protesting to intervene.
With the UK government announcing new licences for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, it’s clear that collective action that allows people to demonstrate their disagreement in peaceful ways is needed. In apparent contradiction to warnings about the climate crisis, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to the green agenda is wavering.
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, has cancelled a plan to fund the transition from fossil fuels to green industries from the first day of government, should he win power. His response to criticism on this change was to turn on protesters.
He said: “The likes of Just Stop Oil want us to simply turn off the taps in the North Sea, creating the same chaos for working people that they do on our roads. It’s contemptible.”
Diverting the conversation
Referring to people defending the environment as a “minority” that acts against other citizens polarises society and marginalises protesters’ claims. It depicts people’s demands as somehow niche rather than amounting to a highly pressing threat to the majority.
One of the features of language is that when we talk, we only focus on one or, at most, a few aspects of a particular object or event. A lot will inevitably remain unsaid.
Still, when what remains unsaid is one of the most obvious elements of any given topic, what is missing becomes as informative as what was said. In this case, the focus on tactics instead of the substance of the protest betrays an unwillingness to engage with the climate crisis.
The government has put forward the home secretary Suella Braverman rather than the environment secretary to respond to the Just Stop Oil protests (itself a signal that they are seen as a public order issue more than anything else).
Braverman has referred to people protesting for environmental reasons as causing “havoc and misery”. Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to have made any public statements regarding the matter.
To say that people are protesting and not mentioning the reason for the protest leaves the story incomplete. That’s something that rarely happens when UK politicians talk about protests in other countries.
Last year, Sunak referred to women protesting in Iran as displaying “the most humbling and breathtaking courage” in sending “a very clear message that the Iranian people aren’t satisfied with the path that the government has taken”. Here the focus of the conversation is placed on protesters’ claims.
But when talking about protests held in the UK, the debate looms over the disruption caused, as if the core message were secondary or even dispensable. It is only when the core message is ignored that politicians can refer to those acting in defence of human and nonhuman lives as “selfish”.
In the absence of meaningful political engagement, conversations about Just Stop Oil protests in the UK have strayed mainly into tactics and disruption at expense of their core message. However, politicians in democratic nations have a responsibility towards the electorate to engage properly with what citizens demand, not just with the way they make their claims heard.
A FRESH legal challenge against the government’s stalled plan to house asylum-seekers on the “deathtrap” Bibby Stockholm barge has been launched by firefighters, their union revealed today.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) outlined its concerns over safety aboard the barge in a pre-action protocol letter sent by lawyers to Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Friday.
It had previously written to Ms Braverman asking for a meeting to discuss its concerns that the boat was a “potential deathtrap,” but the request was turned down earlier this month.
A response to the legal challenge is required by 4pm on Thursday.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack explained that the union had “a duty to make our voices heard on matters of fire safety, especially when politicians let our members and the wider public down.”
He said: “We have been sounding the alarm about the Bibby Stockholm for weeks.
“It is disgraceful that the Home Secretary is not even willing to meet us to discuss these concerns.