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Immigration detainees kept in ‘prison-like’ conditions, inquiry finds | UK News

The inquiry looked into incidents of alleged abuse at Brook House in 2017 (Picture: PA)

Staff at a ‘prison-like’ immigration centre used racist language and forcibly moved detainees around naked, an inquiry has found.

Brook House immigration removal centre (IRC), near Gatwick Airport in West Sussex, was ‘entirely unsuitable for detaining people for anything other than a short period of time’, the four-year probe concluded.

The inquiry, chaired by Kate Eves, was launched two years after a 2017 Panorama investigation into alleged abuse suffered on the site.

In an 800-page, three-volume report, it has concluded that Brook House was ‘not sufficiently decent, secure or caring for detained people or its staff at the time these events took place’.

According to the report, the average stay at the facility in July 2017 was 44 days, but five people had been there for between one and two years.

Among 33 recommendations made by Ms Eves in the report was the introduction of a 28-day maximum time limit for a person to be held at an IRC.

However, she stopped short of calling for Brook House to be closed, as one lawyer representing people who had been held at the site suggested to the inquiry.

The report says it was ‘common’ for staff to use ‘racist and derogatory language’ when speaking about detainees and ‘unacceptable, often abusive behaviour was dismissed as banter’.

The facility has been the site of recent protests against the government’s treatment of migrants (Picture: Niklas Halle’n / AFP)

There was ‘considerable evidence’ that people working on the site were ‘too quick to employ force’, Ms Eves said, and the mocking phrase ‘if he dies, he dies’ was used repeatedly.

She cited an incident depicted in the Panorama programme, in which a detention custody officer put his hands around a detainee’s neck and called him a ‘f**king piece of s**t’, adding: ‘I’m going to put you to f**king sleep’.

Other instances included men being forcibly moved while they were naked or near-naked, and staff who initially ‘stood and looked’ at a detainee who had been found unconscious having attempted to self-harm ‘without trying to help him’.

Ms Eves criticised the responses given to the inquiry by the Home Office and contractor G4S, whose staff were running the centre at the time.

She said she ‘rejected the narrative portrayed by both the Home Office and G4S in their evidence that the events at Brook House were primarily the result of a small minority of G4S staff’, saying their claims sought ‘to distance both organisations from their responsibility’.

Outsourcing firm Serco has since taken over the running of the centre from G4S.

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Ms Eves has requested that the government responds to her recommendations within six months.

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of Freedom from Torture, said: ‘We know from our specialist therapy services across the country how profoundly damaging detention is for survivors of torture.

‘Survivors should never be detained by the Home Office, and the racist abuse and mistreatment they and others have suffered in centres like Brook House is a national disgrace.

‘The Brook House scandal was not an isolated incident, but a symptom of escalating institutionalised cruelty towards asylum seekers and other marginalised migrants.

‘So, it is vital that the government implement all recommendations from this report immediately. A more compassionate approach is essential to protect the safety of people fleeing unimaginable horrors elsewhere.’

Ten members of staff at Brook House were dismissed or resigned following the broadcast of the Panorama investigation (Picture: PA)

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The abuse that took place at Brook House in 2017 was unacceptable.

‘The government has made significant improvements since then to uphold the welfare and dignity of those detained including strengthening safeguards, promoting a culture of transparency and improving the oversight of contractors’ performance.

‘We remain committed to ensuring safety and security in all Immigration Removal Centres and to learn lessons from Brook House to ensure these events never happen again.

‘We thank the Chair and Inquiry team for their report and are carefully considering every recommendation.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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