Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More Tabloid Mock Immigration Outrage

The rightwhinge tabloids are frothing at the mouth again (or at least their editors and journalists are pretending to) at the spectre of so-called 'foreign national prisoners' living "in luxury £1.6m detention centres" as the Express puts it. [1] This non-story about foreign national ex-prisoners who have been selected for deportation being transferred straight from prisons to detention centres where they languish (though that is clearly not the tabloids' view) stems from the Daily Mail picking up on [1] the latest Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report on Lindholme IRC.

This 124 place detention centre is sited next to HMP Lindholme and is run for the UKBA by the Prison Service. It is not a "luxury detention centre" but, like the prison it shares a split site with, it consists of converted building of what was RAF Lindholme. The cells in the IRC side are very much like those in the HMP side. Yes, they have access to a library, an activities centre and fitness suite and, unlike the prison-side, do not have to pay for access to a TV. [3] However, the claim that each detainee has a key to his room and that rooms have a secure locker [4] contradicts the most recent Chief Inspector of Prison (HMIoP) findings:

"The accommodation was minimally decorated and little had been done to promote an IRC, rather than a prison, environment. The fabric of some rooms was in a poor condition. There were many worn and thin mattresses, with no system for checking and replacing them. Most shower facilities were adequate, but many toilets were dirty and some had no locks. Some rooms were hot and difficult to ventilate, particularly as many had broken window handles. Most detainees did not have access to lockable cabinets, although a delivery of keys arrived during the inspection. A number of televisions, Freeview boxes and aerial sockets were not in working order." [pg. 12]

"Living accommodation was functional but in need of maintenance, and the units were austere. Movement around the centre was restricted, with detainees spending substantial periods locked on their units. Toilets were dirty but shower facilities were appropriate and well maintained. Laundry arrangements were limited." [pg. 21]

"However, detainees’ own medicines were not secure in their rooms, as for many there was no facility for locking them away. In most cases, medicines were stored on the window sills of detainees’ rooms." [pg. 45]

Does that sound like the lap of luxury?

Now, we fully understand that this opportunity to indulge in a bout of simulated outrage was too good to pass up as it conflates two tabloid standbys, crime and immigration, so it is of no surprise for anyone who has bothered to read the IMB report itself to see that the Board's "concern at the numbers of ex-foreign national prisoners having served their sentences and now held as detainees in the Centre" are not the only issues highlighted. Also of 'concern' were the numbers of people held in excess of 6 months, not just the ex-FNPs highlighted in the tabloids; problems with healthcare provision by Serco, with no dedicated nurse for the IRC and staff shortages leading to nurses being redeployed on a priority basis to the prison-side; and general low staffing levels. Of course, these sort of problems don't generate the sort of juicy headlines that tabloid editors crave.

1] The Express also claims that this fact (i.e. "Foreign criminals who should be deported are being sent to luxury detention centres costing taxpayers millions of pounds") "emerged last night." This is utter rubbish. This situation has been going on ever since Nu Labour decided that deporting ex-FNPs was the politically expedient this to do. Even the Mail did not make such a stupid claim as it looks better to highlight that, "Concerns about the situation have been raised in two [annual] reports by the Independent Monitoring Board." Missed a trick there Jeeves.
2] One of the tabloids tricks is to monitor IMB and HMIoP reports for nice juicy bits of information to exploit for their own anti-foreigner ends.
3] Where did the idea that detainees have access to radios come from? It's not in the IMB report.
4] Repeated word for word from the introductions of reports going all the way back to 2006-07 (reports before then no longer available), so it appears that the actuality of this had not been checked by the IMB, unlike the HMIoP.

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