In publishing the first national study of immigration removal centres (IRCs), Mary Bosworth provides a sensitive and authentic insight into the lives of those confined to immigration detention centres in the UK. She examines the impact of detention through detailed interviews and observations with staff and detainees.

Through her description of IRCs, she likens the environment of isolation, confinement and institutional rule to that of the prison system, yet there is no chance of rehabilitation. Privately run and managed through outsourced Home Office contracts, IRCs, unlike prisons, detain people for administrative reasons. The duration of their stay is not time-limited, since the UK has resisted the European trend of instituting a statutory time limit.

This potentially open-ended confinement has a profound impact on detainees. It creates an environment of confusion and uncertainty, notwithstanding the safeguards against it. IRCs host a vulnerable mix of people, including the young, those with mental health disorders, survivors of torture, asylum seekers, pregnant women and victims of trafficking.

Author: Mary Bosworth

Publisher: Oxford University Press (£29.99)

Bosworth draws attention to the enduring difficulties faced by detainees, who come from all over the world, at an elementary level. Although most detainees speak some English, few are fully literate, which means many find it challenging to read and understand the documentation explaining their detention. Communication with staff, legal representatives and one another is also difficult.

However, as staff and detainee testimonies reveal, they find many areas of common ground in their day-to-day life.

This book emphasises the need for greater scrutiny of detention centres. Its publication is timely, given the government’s review of mental health issues and the welfare of vulnerable persons in immigration detention.

Amie Higgins is director at Bankfield Heath Solicitors