Dover detention centre due to close

It was announced on 15 October that the Home Office was decommissioning Dover detention centre. Samphire will focus on its work with people released from detention and its work in the community.

The news came like so many Home Office immigration decisions: suddenly and with no reasons. Only this decision was not the decision to split a father from his children or to refuse the claim of someone who fled for their life – it was the decision to close Dover detention centre. The detainees were locked in their cells while detention centre staff gathered on the morning of Thursday 15 October to hear from the Centre Manager Paul Woods that the Home Office were closing the centre. Samphire received a call shortly after telling them the same thing. To their knowledge, no reasons have been given for this decision.

In a town with high unemployment, the local press has focussed on the impact of this on the officers’ jobs. This decision will indeed have an impact on the lives of the people who work there – with greater travel to alternative employment or with uncertainty on how the mortgage will be paid. This will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the speed with which the change will happen (closure expected in two to four weeks) and the distress caused by the absence of reasons. However, Samphire exists to help the people detained there and they are thinking of how this news will affect them.


Impact on people detained

Dover is an “Immigration Removal Centre”. This is an inaccurate name given that these centres are actually long-term detention centres. Most people Samphire meet are detained for months and they regularly meet people detained for years. This name also hides the fact that in any given year as many people are released from detention as are removed to another country. These people have had their lives damaged by detention without purpose.

Samphire recently wrote about the problems of detention in Dover – of the inescapable fact that these are prisons for immigrants. No judge is involved in the decision to detain and the people detained are not serving any sentence – it is just a civil servant that makes the decision to detain. Worse than this, there is no time limit on detention despite a recent cross-party Detection Inquiry which recommended a 28 day time limit.

For most of the people detained in Dover this decision will not reduce the length of time they will spend in detention. Its effect is likely to be a transfer to another detention centre where the same systematic problems of detention will remain. The recent trend has also been towards ever more remote detention centres such as Morton Hall, Lincolnshire and the Verne, Dorset – where it is harder for people detained to get access to legal advice and specialist support. The regular scandals within detection centres are also less visible in remote locations.

Continuing work in the community

Samphire’s Detention Support work will end with the closure of Dover detention centre. However, the work of their Ex-Detainee Project will continue to support people released from detention nationwide. They will also continue their Awareness Raising Project in the local community – this project has already had great success with:

  • The creation of a migration facts leaflet
  • The Against the Tide event in April 2015
  • The Facts Over Fear event in September 2015

Fraser Paterson, Samphire Detention Support Project Manager said:

“We would welcome the closure of the detention centre if it signalled a new approach to immigration that at least put minimum safeguards on detention and reduced Britain’s reliance on detention. I recently met two 13 year old boys detained in Dover and we regularly help severely mentally ill people and survivors of torture who have been detained against the Home Office’s own rules. The idea of such people being detained with no time limit just doesn’t fit with our image of Britain as a modern and developed state.

For those at Dover, the decision is likely to mean lengthy detention in a different detention centre. Just because one detention centre is closed doesn’t mean that these problems go away – they’re just less visible. The public needs to keep up the pressure on the Government to change these damaging policies.”

The Edith M Ellis 1985 Charitable Trust support Samphire in the continuation of their work.  Further information about the project can be found at