TWO damning reports into a G4S-run immigration removal centre reveal “a casual disregard for people’s welfare” and the “continued failure” of measures to protect vulnerable detainees, campaigners said today.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found that Tinsley House immigration centre in West Sussex was “reasonably decent and safe,” but strongly criticised the “routine failure of detention to achieve the objective of removal.”
A shocking 42 per cent of men at Tinsley House told inspectors they felt “unsafe,” while 22 per cent said they felt “threatened or intimidated by staff.”
A second report on its accommodation for families facing deportation said two families with children were arrested at their homes in the early hours by “more than eight people in uniforms wearing stab vests and heavy boots.”
Bail for Immigration Detainees director Celia Clarke told the Star that those children “are never going to recover from the experience. We are talking here about an administrative process … it is administrative and they are treating people like criminals.”
Inspectors at Tinsley House heard reports of “staff seeking to control detainees by threatening to transfer them to Brook House,” the notorious immigration centre – also run by G4S – “where the conditions are more prison-like.”
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke warned of the “danger that the needs of Brook House would undermine the focus on Tinsley House” and pointed out that detainees’ freedom to move around the centre had been “restricted … for reasons of operational convenience.”
Detainees’ freedom to move around the centre had been cut from 17 to 12 hours a day as part of “cost-cutting measures” and to “align detainee custody officer shift patterns with those at Brook House.”
Worryingly, Mr Clarke identified “ongoing weakness in Rule 35 protections,” which are supposed to ensure the detention of vulnerable detainees is reviewed, particularly where there are concerns someone is a victim of torture or at risk of self-harm.
In a sample of 10 cases examined by inspectors, “eight showed that the Home Office had accepted evidence of torture, but that detention nevertheless continued,” the report stated.
HMIP also found that only four of 19 families detained in 11 months were eventually removed, while across Britain 1,300 families were removed without the need for detention in the last two years.
Ms Clarke said that “begs the question as to why you need detention at all,” adding: “The detention of families should have ended in 2010 when the government pledged it would: cruel, unnecessary, distressing.”
She said the reports showed “a casual disregard for people’s welfare” and accused the Home Office of using detention as a “first resort. It’s supposed to be a last resort, but it never is – it’s used completely at the convenience of the Home Office.”
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG) welcomed HMIP’s recommendation that there should be a detention time limit, but added that “no local measures can change the fundamental injustice and mental cruelty of indefinite detention in the UK.”
GDWG said it was particularly concerned about “the continued failures of the Rule 35 system,” saying: “Where vulnerability is identified after a person has already been detained, they should be released without delay.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Detention is an important part of the immigration system – but it must be fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable.
“This report makes many positive findings, including the good relationship between staff and detainees, however it rightly points out areas where we can do better and we are committed to improving.”