Prison-like Dover Immigration Centre set to shut down amidst concerns

asylum, appeal 17 October 2015

The Dover Immigration Removal Centre (DIRC) has received its fair share of damning reports that allude to its prison-like conditions and the long detention periods immigrants were subjected to. In mid October, the Home Office finally decided that the facility would be shut down, but the announcement had a mixed reception.

The decision was announced without any prior warning to immigrants and almost 200 workers that are employed in the establishment stand to lose their jobs once it comes into effect. Detainees currently residing in Dover will be relocated to removal centres or prisons in remote areas such as Morton Hall or The Verne where they can look for other legal representatives.

Currently, the UK has approximately 13 Immigration Removal Centres that accommodate over 3,000 people at a time. DIRC was formerly a prison that was erected in 1952 but was converted into a detention centre in 1957 for juvenile offenders and remained that way until 2002 when it was successfully converted into an Immigration Removal Centre. Since its formation, the centre acquired notoriety for its inhabitable conditions and other issues. However, current staff members are not overly happy with the news regarding the shut down and the fact that they have only two to four weeks to leave before it does.

The late warning is also a cause for concern for detainees currently residing in the centre and who need to keep in touch with their legal representatives. According to the Bail for Immigration Detainees, a large number of them lost contact with their legal reps when they were relocated to other detention centres. Since the procedural inadequacies cannot be challenged easily or legally, many refugees are at risk of losing the chance of being granted refuge in the country.

There is some good news for the people affected by this decision though. The Ministry of Justice has announced that the 200+ staff will be transferred to other prisons in the South East or in areas that are suffering from staff shortages. However, many of them are based in distant locations that require an hour or more to reach by road. The Isle of Sheppey for instance, lies 42 miles from Dover and it takes workers an hour to reach there. With 14 to 15 hour shifts to contend with, most relocated staff members are not satisfied with the arrangement, and if given the opportunity, they would try and look for another job with more favourable work conditions.

In fact, the only silver lining that the news has given the community is that some of their detention centres will experience an influx of trained and qualified staff. A viable solution would be to improve the living conditions in detention centres rather than shifting detainees and experienced workers in different ones that may be as inhospitable as the one they leave. This course of action will prevent the aforementioned issues along with indefinite detention periods and mental health issues that both detainees and the staff can face.

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