While the current size of the British immigration detention estate is relatively recent, the government has detained foreign nationals for some time in a series of establishments. Following the Immigrant Appeals Act of 1969, when Commonwealth citizens were granted in country right of appeal about decisions made at the border, the UK opened two new detention units, one near the site of the contemporary IRC Harmondsworth and another in the Officers' Mess at Dover Castle. Although some photographic evidence and first hand accounts from Harmondsworth exist, very little information is available about the Dover site, despite the fact that it was in use through the 1980s.
This is what the site looks like today.Housed in an imposing 19th century building in the centre of the Dover castle site in the part known as the New Officers' Mess, it is in a state of disrepair with flaking paint, dead pigeons and dust. Certain aspects of day to day life can be gleaned from the signs on the doors which refer to waiting rooms, welfare, toilets and showers. Upstairs, there are more ablution blocks and larger rooms along a central corridor. In addition to housing recent arrivals, the building also hosted the early immigration tribunal, with immigration officers living either on site or nearby. If you have any information about this establishment, Border Criminologies would love to hear from you. Email us here.