Dover immigration centre 'dismissed torture claims'

Part of Dover immigration removal centre
Image caption Prisons inspectors said reports by officers were poor, often hand-written, and difficult to read

Detainees who claimed they had been tortured were treated dismissively by officers at Dover immigration removal centre, prisons inspectors have said.

Reports by officers at the Kent centre lacked photographs, body maps and judgements on whether scarring matched alleged abuse, inspectors found.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick called on the UK Border Agency to improve its response to such claims.

The UKBA said it had made improvements but there was more work to be done.

Inspectors said officers' reports were made under Detention Centre Rule 35, which sets out how immigration staff deal with torture claims.

'No detainees released'

Mr Hardwick said they were poor, often hand-written and difficult to read.

He said: "Cases involving torture described scarring but lacked photographs or body maps.

"There were no judgements on whether scarring was consistent with the alleged method of abuse.

"For example, in a case where the detainee claimed to have been shot, there was no judgement on whether the scars were consistent with gunshot wounds."

Mr Hardwick said the UKBA's replies to claims of torture were "dismissive" and none of its replies had led to a detainee's release.

In one claim, a report by a health care professional described scarring, but the UKBA reply said: "There is no medical evidence to support your contentions."

The UKBA reply said the detainee had claimed to be beaten, kicked, subjected to a serious sexual assault and left with back pain and injuries. But it continued: "Were it even vaguely credible that you were ill-treated in the manner described, it is considered that you would have raised this at the earliest opportunity."

Overall, inspectors found the centre had improved since it was last inspected in 2011.

Chief executive of Freedom from Torture, Keith Best, said: "The UKBA has ploughed its energies into speeding up processing of Rule 35 forms but these efforts have come to nought for survivors of torture who remain in detention because case owners dismiss the medical evidence in these reports out of hand.

"The example of the case owner flatly rejecting the possibility that someone would make a late disclosure of torture involving (a sexual assault) is sadly very typical of the cases we see on a regular basis."

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "Anyone believed to be a victim of torture is only detained in exceptional circumstances and is treated with the utmost sensitivity.

"Inspectors recognised that we have improved the way we deal with Rule 35 reports but there is more work to be done.

"We continue to tighten up the existing procedures and improve training for medical practitioners, caseworkers and staff working in removal centres."

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