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Dover's Immigration Removal Centre 'still being run like prison', unannounced inspection finds

By Victoria Chessum

An inspection report on Dover's Immigration Removal Centre says it is "still run like a prison" despite its change in status 12 years ago.

Situated in a 19th-century fort on cliffs above the town, Dover has housed an Immigration Removal Centre since 2002 and now holds up to 280 people.

An unannounced inspection has now reported on the conditions of detainees.

Inside Dover's Immigration Removal Centre, in a 19th-century fort on cliffs

The official report said the centre had "failed to develop an identity as an IRC as opposed to a prison".

It was noted that some house blocks were like a prison environment and some members of staff were unprofessional.

It reads: "The culture reflected a prison mindset and little had been done to soften the environment in line with many other removal centres.

"Some staff were caring but too many were distant and in some cases dismissive and unprofessional."

"The culture reflected a prison mindset and little had been done to soften the environment in line with many other removal centres..." - official report

At the time of the inspection, the centre was anticipating the arrival of a newly appointed centre manager.

Another aspect published in the report said immigration processes impacted on detainees' stress levels and their "sense of safety".

On a more positive note, the report said Dover was a "safe institution" and although fewer detainees than expected said they felt safe on their first night, these perceptions improved as they settled.

Recorded incidents of violence and self-harm were low and there was little evidence of bullying.

The report said: "In our survey, about a third of detainees said that they currently felt unsafe, which was similar to the proportion at other centres.

"The number of violent incidents was similar to that at other centres, and bullying was rare."

Dover Immigration Removal Centre

HM chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: "Dover IRC is currently experiencing a period of transition in management, and this should be seen as an opportunity.

"Many arrangements and much of the provision at Dover work adequately well with pockets of good practice.

"The institution has not been a prison for more than 12 years but in many respects it is still run like one.

"As indicated in previous reports, the centre needs to give greater emphasis to the specific needs of detainees and respond proportionately to the risks it faces."

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