As reported in an article by Kitty Holland in The Irish Times, more than 400 people were held in prison last year in relation to immigration issues, and figures from the Irish Prison Service show 421 people were committed in 2016 on immigration-related issues, compared to 342 in 2015.
The European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has previously criticised the practice, saying in 2006 that:
"Even if the actual conditions of detention for these persons in the establishment concerned are adequate – which has not always been the case – the CPT considers such an approach to be fundamentally flawed. A prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither convicted nor suspected of a criminal offence."
In its 2007 report on a visit to Ireland, the CPT reiterated the point and added that:
"In those cases where it is deemed necessary to deprive persons of their liberty for an extended period under aliens legislation, they should be accommodated in centres specifically designed for that purpose, offering material conditions and a regime appropriate to their legal situation and staffed by suitably qualified personnel."
Fiona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director of IPRT, is quoted in the Irish Times article as saying it was “wholly unacceptable” that any immigration detainee should be held in a prison as they had not been charged or convicted of a criminal offence, and that said detention in the Dóchas centre in Dublin was “particularly problematic” as it is “regularly overcrowded”.
The article also quoted a spokeswoman for the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) who was “absolutely concerned at the ongoing detention” in prison of people facing deportation, and the council called for the provision of “alternative, appropriate accommodation”.
Detention for immigration-related purposes in prisons is one of the issues that will be raised at the United Nations in Geneva next week when Ireland appears before the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). After Ireland last appeared before UNCAT in 2011, it recommended that the Irish authorities “take measures to ensure that persons detained for immigration-related reasons are held in facilities appropriate to their status”.
IPRT has submitted to UNCAT that they should enquire what measures are in place to monitor the exact number of immigration detainees, and what efforts are made by the authorities to ensure that they are treated in a way appropriate to their status as neither remanded nor sentenced persons. And also to enquire as to the progress regarding a discrete facility for immigration detainees, with appropriate independent oversight.
Immigration detention in prisons is wrong in all cases, but the issues are compounded in Ireland’s female prison estate. Along with overcrowding, the separation of remand from sentenced prisoners is not achieved in Dóchas; only one medium-security level exists for female prisoners, so there is no separation of low risk from high risk prisoners; and women in prison have very complex needs leading to a higher prevalence of mental health issues, addictions, experiences of abuse, and so on.
Read the full article here.