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In February 2015 then Home Secretary Theresa May commissioned an independent review into the Home Office policies and operating procedures that have an impact on immigration detainee welfare. Stephen Shaw, former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, lead the review. His report, published in January 2016, made 64 specific recommendations.

Part 4 of Mr Shaw’s report addressed the concept of vulnerability. He recommended that the presumption against detention be extended to include victims of rape and other sexual or gender-based violence (including FGM), to those with a diagnosis of PTSD, to transsexual people and to those with learning difficulties. He called for the presumptive exclusion of pregnant women be replaced by an absolute exclusion, and that the clause “which cannot be satisfactorily managed in detention” should be removed from the section of the guidance covering those suffering from serious mental illness.

Mr Shaw also found that rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules – designed as a key safeguard for victims of torture or whose health would be at risk from continued detention – failed to protect vulnerable people in detention. He identified the ‘fundamental problem’ as being a lack of trust in GPs to provide independent advice and called on the Home Office to consider whether GPs independent of the IRC system would be more appropriate to conduct assessments.

At the invitation of the Government Mr Shaw will conduct a shorter follow-up review in autumn 2017, assessing the progress made in implementing the recommendations in his first report.


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