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Duncan Lewis Solicitors challenge the detention centre pay regime (5 September 2018)

Date: 05/09/2018
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Duncan Lewis Solicitors challenge the detention centre pay regime

Our Public Law team have issued Judicial Review proceedings challenging £1 per hour wages within immigration detention centres.

The case is a landmark challenge to the detention centre pay regime, first introduced in 2008. In 2016/2017, over 880,000 hours of paid work was carried out by immigration detainees. The vast majority of this work was rewarded with £1 per hour pay (as the ‘specified project’ rate of £1.25 is rarely used).

A wide range of jobs are being carried out within immigration detention centres including a cleaner, kitchen assistant, barber, gym assistant, interpreter and library assistant. These roles are of critical importance to the maintenance of the detention estate. Our clients work up to 30 hours per week in order to raise funds for essential toiletries, phone credit and even to send money home to their families. They feel exploited having to do such essential roles for only £1 per hour, with no possibility of a raise in pay. Without our clients carrying out this work, it would have to be done by external employees at national minimum wage rates.

Immigration detainees are exempt from the National Minimum Wage legislation and it is the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s discretion to set rates of pay. We are challenging the decision to set it at a maximum singular rate of £1 per hour and the failure to increase this rate (or properly review this rate) since 2008. Whilst prisoners are often paid less than immigration detainees, prisoner pay is a devolved matter for each Prison Governor. Detention centre providers have expressed a desire to increase pay for detainees.

Following our Pre Action letter submitted in May 2017, the Home Office conducted a full review of immigration removal centre pay. This review recommended increasing pay by inflation to £1.15 per hour. However, even this modest increase was rejected by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

We are challenging the current policy on the following grounds:

  1. That the decision to impose a maximum rate of £1 per hour is contrary to/ frustrates the statutory purpose of the Detention Centre Rules 2001;


  2. That the decision to fix a singular rate of pay is an unlawful fetter by the Secretary of State of his powers under the 2001 Rules;


  3. That the decision to keep the rate at £1 per hour and the Secretary of State’s review into pay was irrational;


  4. That the pay regime amounts to unlawful discrimination, on the basis that it treats foreign detainees worse than prisoners;


  5. That the Home Office’s review does not meet the Secretary of State’s duty under Section 149 Equality Act 2010; and


  6. That our Claimants had a legitimate expectation that a proper review of detention wages would be carried out.

The case has been listed at the High Court for a rolled-up hearing on 4 and 5 December 2018.

Hugh Southey QC and Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers are instructed by Toufique Hossain and Philip Armitage of Duncan Lewis’ Public Law Team.

If you are currently working in immigration detention and would like to challenge this policy, please contact Philip Armitage on 0203 114 1219 or Toufique Hossain on 0203 114 1128.

Duncan Lewis Public Law

Our Public Law team specialises in all immigration judicial review matters and costs litigation; Unlawful immigration detention cases with high net claims for damages; prison law claimants; immigration removal cases. We carry out both publicly and privately funded work.

The firm continues to be recommended by Legal 500, with the Public Law department previously recommended for its depth of experience in immigration and civil liberties challenges and is acknowledged as having a "stellar reputation in handling test cases". The Legal 500 2017 edition applauds the firm for its specialism in judicial review and Court of Appeal Cases. The Public law team is well established and known by the Legal Aid Agency, the Courts, and the Treasury Solicitor. Duncan Lewis have experience in all aspects of judicial review claimant work, including obtaining emergency orders and other interim relief to prevent breaches of human rights, following up judicial reviews with actions for damages in both the County and High Court and successfully pursuing judicial review matters to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

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