Spike in self harm at Morton Hall immigration centre

There has been another spike in self-harm incidents at an immigration centre near Lincoln despite a drop in population, a new independent report has revealed.

Inspectors from the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) found that there was a “significant increase” in self-harm incidents from 181 in 2017 to 217 in 2018 at Morton Hall Immigration Centre.

The board said that self-harm incidents were often the result of frustration and uncertainty that comes with detention, with just three detainees in one quarter of the year responsible for a third of incidents.

It comes after a similar report in 2017 which found that cases of people self-harming had increased nearly threefold since the previous inspection in March 2013.

Protesters have also previously called for Morton Hall immigration centre to be closed down in the wake of a Home Affairs Committee report, which was published earlier this year.

During 2018 there was an average of 42 “adults at risk,” where there was professional evidence of mental health conditions, serious disabilities or that they had been the victim of torture or violence.

Half of the population is made up by foreign national offenders, but the IMB said it was concerned about the adverse effects of keeping criminals with other detainees.

Despite a rise in self-harm incidents, inspectors said that “standards had markedly improved during 2018, though there remains work to be done.”

Malcolm Brock, chair of the Independent Monitoring Board at Morton Hall, said: “As a board, we see improvements in the conditions for men at Morton Hall but remain concerned about the suitability of a detention environment for some detainees.

“We recognise the vigilance of staff in identifying detainees who are struggling to cope within the IRC.

“The increase in incidents of self-harm is a matter of definite concern and is indicative of the difficulties that an uncertain and indefinite length of time in detention presents for the wellbeing of some detainees.”

In response, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Immigration detention is an important part of the wider immigration system, and we are committed to using detention sparingly and only when necessary.

“We have made significant improvements recently and are committed to doing more and introducing further alternatives to detention, increasing transparency and improving the support available for vulnerable detainees.”