Author: Lizzie Dearden
A scandal-hit immigration removal centre where G4S guards were filmed abusing detainees is only suitable to hold people for “a few weeks” at the most, a review has found.
But some detainees at Brook House, near Gatwick Airport, have been held there for several years amid disputes about whether they can legally be deported.
Inspectors were given access to Brook House over five months starting in November 2017, in the wake of undercover footage broadcast on BBC Panoramafrom inside the centre.
It showed detainees being abused and humiliated while self-harming and taking drugs, and an asylum seeker detained there after the scandal broke told The Independent it was a “dangerous place”.
An independent report commissioned by G4S found the centre had been short-staffed and officers were badly trained, driving violence among “under-occupied and bored” detainees who were given little to do.
Inspectors from the Verita consultancy said they did not witness any inappropriate behaviour by G4S staff during their visit, and detainees did not suggest abuse was widespread.
But some said their interactions with staff were “dehumanising” and called healthcare workers “uncaring”, “arrogant” and “unkind”.
The report concluded that Brook House did not provide suitable accommodation for vulnerable or mentally ill detainees, who are currently mixed in with failed asylum seekers, visa overstayers and foreign national offenders being deported after serving prison sentences.
“Some detainees have been victims of violence, torture and other traumatic events. Many detainees at Brook House have mental health issues,” the report said.
“The physical constraints and the lack of facilities at Brook House make it unsuitable to house the number of detainees it does. They also make it unsuitable to hold any detainee for more than a few weeks.”
Britain is the only country in Europe not to have a time limit on immigration detention and a High Court case over mistreatment by G4S guards at Brook House was brought by a man who had been detained for three years.
Of those who left detention in the year ending June 2017, 28 per cent were there for between 29 days and four months and 1,943 were detained for more more than four months – of whom 172 had been in detention for between one and two years.
The conditions in which people are held has come into focus following several suicides.
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, vowed that her party would close Brook House and women’s detention centre Yarl’s Wood and review the entire immigration estate if elected.
Brook House, which opened in 2009, is managed by G4S on behalf of the Home Office and can hold up to 448 men.
The centre, which is built to the security standard of a category B jail, was found to be cleaned to a poor standard and with dated facilities.
The report revealed a serious disturbance in November 2017 when officers feared they’d “lost control” of the centre after a “mass refusal” by detainees to be locked up at lunchtime.
Inspectors warned that violence and bullying among detainees “was not properly managed” and staff’s inexperience was making them “frustrated and aggressive”