The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has asked for the Home Office to release potentially detrimental reports detailing the running of Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres within a matter of weeks.
Despite government officials arguing that the confidential documents would harm both the commercial interests of contractors Serco and GEO Group and the Home Office’s power to negotiate with future contractors, the ICO stated that the public interest in transparency was vital.
Corporate Watch’s Phiil Miller, cited in The Guardian newspaper, described the ruling as landmark, sending “a strong signal to government to be far more transparent on outsource contracts. Home Office bureaucrats should not shield private security companies from public scrutiny”.
The ICO’s decision certainly reflects a widely-held view that the operation of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) is not up to scratch. Both media coverage and prison reports carried out by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons have contributed to the decision process, with the former revealing a disturbing increase in serious self-harm.
The government has yet to confirm whether it will appeal the decision, with both contractors also declining to comment at this stage. Watch this space…