Response to Sajid Javid statement and Shaw report on immigration detention

The government’s response to a critical report into immigration detention does not go far enough to protect torture survivors.

Former Prisons Ombudsman Stephen Shaw has criticised the implementation of the ‘Adults At Risk’ policy. The policy was intended to reduce the number of vulnerable people in detention, but Shaw concludes that it "does not yet seem to be delivering the expected outcomes". It was introduced following his original report in 2016, which exposed how the government’s safeguarding rule to protect torture survivors were failing[1]. He is also highly critical of the safeguards concerning mental health available in detention centres. 

‘Adults At Risk’ policy...was intended to reduce the number of vulnerable people in detention...following [Shaw's] original report in 2016

The government has responded by stating that it is looking into how Rule 35 (which deals with torture survivors and other people who maybe particularly vulnerable in detention) can be improved. 

[But] Shaw concludes that it "does not yet seem to be delivering the expected outcomes".

Despite promises of an earlier release from the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, Mr Shaw’s report has been published at the very last moment before Parliament goes into recess. 

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom of Torture said: 

“Immigration detention is hugely damaging for people who have survived torture.  It causes or worsens anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. 

“The Home Office promised that its Adults at Risk policy would increase protection for torture survivors but this was a cruel sleight of hand.  In reality, it stacks the decks against survivors by giving the Home Office more power to over-rule medical concerns.  A new more restrictive definition of torture, concocted by the Home Office for this purpose, has rigged the system further. 

“As the Windrush scandal exposed, the system of immigration detention is designed to keep people locked up without proper regard to the irreparable harm highlighted by this report. 

“To fulfil his promise of a more compassionate immigration system, Sajid Javid should put an immediate stop to the shameful detention of people who have survived torture and other serious harm. Alternatives to detention are a step in the right direction but the Home Office’s made-up definition of torture should be withdrawn and the Adults at Risk policy revised to give survivors the higher level of protection they were promised when Stephen Shaw was first invited to make recommendations to improve this callous system.” 

Borry, a torture survivor detained in the UK said: 

“I still struggle every time I recall the detention experience as it takes me back to my memories of torture. I could not trust any authority anywhere and thought that I might be tortured again. The sound of the locks, the footsteps, the four walls, the not knowing what was happening – this was all mental torture. The prison or health staff were not able to respond to my physical and mental needs after torture.”

Read Borry's full blog here and find out more about our work on the detention of torture survivors here


[1] Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons, A report to the Home Office by Stephen Shaw, January 2016. Available: