Anti-torture Committee publishes report on ad hoc visit to the UK in November 2022
Sofía Medina Sánchez
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 29th of June 2023, The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published the report on its ad hoc visit to the United Kingdom (UK) in November 2022, including the response of the UK authorities. The purpose of this visit was examining the treatment of foreign nationals who arrive by boat, after crossing the English Channel, in the UK. The Western Jet Foil disembarkation site and the Manston Short-Term Holding Facility (STHF), where migrants are kept the first 24 hours after being rescued upon their arrival in the UK, were visited. In addition, the CPT visited the Kent Intake Unit in Dover for unaccompanied and separated children.
In Manston, the number of detainees reduced from 4000 to 20 and the CPT reported a caring and professional attitude in providing identity checks and humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the CPT observed satisfactory living conditions for those in short stays of up to 24 hours. However, staff interviews revealed that during the period of mass arrivals, foreigners were held more than 40 days in overcrowded spaces with no furniture besides a mattress, few sanitary facilities and almost no access to fresh air. The CPT’s report highlighted that the extended detention of individuals under extremely unfavourable conditions at Manston STHF in October and early November 2022 could have subjected them to inhuman or degrading treatment. The report suggests that as a part of reclassifying a section of the facility as an STHF Residential Holding Room, the shortcomings in material conditions should be addressed and rectified.
With respect to the migrants’ legal safeguards, the UK authorities should make sure that foreign nationals are detained within statutory limits. Additionally, the report highlights the need to strengthen the coordination and quality control of the provision of healthcare and guarantee that a medical screening is conducted on migrants detained for more than 24 hours. Hunger strikes and suicide prevention should be tackled through clinical protocols and guidelines.
In their reply, the UK authorities furnish details about the ongoing process of reclassifying sections of Manston STHF as a Residential Holding Room, allowing individuals to be detained for a maximum of 96 hours. They also highlight the advancements made in enhancing the facilities, including the introduction of new sleep/rest areas, upgraded communal and recreational spaces, and the expansion of the medical unit. Additionally, the UK authorities apprise the Committee of the measures implemented to reinforce the legal protections for detained migrants and the improved efficiency of border security and immigration processing.
Sources and further reading:
Council of Europe, Newsroom, Council of Europe anti-torture Committee (CPT) publishes report on its 2022 ad hoc visit to the United Kingdomg, 29 June 2023: https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-cpt-publishes-report-on-its-2022-ad-hoc-visit-to-the-united-kingdom.
Council of Europe, Report to the United Kingdom Government on the ad hoc visit to United Kingdom carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 to 28 November 2022, CPT/Inf (2023) 14, Strasbourg 29.06.2023: https://rm.coe.int/1680abc9b6.
Council of Europe, Response of the United Kingdom Government to the report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its visit to the United Kingdom from 25 to 28 November 2022, CPT/Inf (2023) 15, Strasbourg 29.06.2023: https://rm.coe.int/1680abc9b7