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Volume 702: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they intend to provide capacity to detain an additional 1,400 persons in detention centres; whether in reaching this decision they took into account conditions in existing detention centres; and how they intend to improve the overall management of detention centres. [HL3882]

The recent announcement by the Minister for Borders and Immigration to expand the capacity of the Immigration Removal Centre estate is to ensure that we have sufficient space to detain immigration offenders in order to effect their removal from the UK.

The UK Border Agency now removes an immigration offender every eight minutes. This includes failed asylum seekers, overstayers and a record number of foreign prisoners.

Challenging targets have been set to increase the rate of removals, backed up with a doubling of enforcement resources.

Detention is necessary to ensure that immigration offenders do not abscond while the final stages of their removal are being arranged. It can also be used to “fast track” new asylum claims by housing applicants in centres with dedicated teams of case workers. This allows their cases to be decided quickly, leading either to faster integration in the UK for successful applicants, or faster removal for those whose claims are refused.

Existing centres are constantly reviewed to ensure that the safest, most secure and humane conditions are in place, subject to the constraints of the facility.

When new centres are planned, the latest designs are considered to ensure that value for money is obtained and any lessons learnt from existing centres are included to improve staff and detainee safety and well-being.

The management of the centres is undertaken by both HM Prison Service and private contractors under the supervision of the UK Border Agency. Regular reviews are undertaken by UKBA to ensure that agreed standards and procedures covering both security and welfare of detainees are being met.

Centres are also subject to regular inspections by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and independent monitoring boards review the standard of care provided to the detainees.