A SURPRISE swoop by inspectors at the immigration centre at Manchester airport has exposed a number of problems. The Home Office says a major security weakness was a false ceiling which allowed easy access to the roof space, through which one detainee had escaped. Electronic detectors and cameras have now been fitted at the centre. Their official report is also critical that detainees are handcuffed in view of passengers at the airport. "As a result of the previous escape into the airport grounds, the airport authority had insisted that staff routinely handcuff detainees when outside the detention facility," says the report. "During movement to and from outside vans and to the immigration interview area, handcuffed detainees could often by seen by passengers in the terminal, which was not acceptable." The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, says handcuffing outside the centre should only take place following individual risk assessment.
The inspectors visited short-term holding centres at Manchester, Dover and Harwich in unannounced visits to see how the centres handled passengers refused entry into the UK.
"Our recommendations include the need for any incident of physical injury following restraint to be medically examined and logged to identify patterns and allow effective investigation of alleged abuses," said Ms Owers.
Referring to all three centres she said there was a lack of routine healthcare, insufficient exercise, inadequate self harm and suicide procedures, poor access to legal advice and inadequate fire safety procedures.
But in the case of the Manchester airport centre, located in the restricted area of the airport in Terminal 2, inspectors said that detainees said they had been well-treated by escort and custodial staff even though the number of detainees held was sometimes higher than the maximum of 16.
Butthe centre needs better kitchen facilities and separate sleeping arrangements for men and women, said the inspectors.