People kept 'unacceptably long time' at Gatwick immigration removal centre

People held at an immigration removal centre near Gatwick – where the first attempt was made to deport detainees to Rwanda – were kept for ‘unacceptably long periods.’
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That was one of the findings revealed in a report out this week following an inspection of the centre – Brook House – by officials.

They found that the centre was ‘providing decent standards of care’ but that many detainees were anxious about their future because of delays in dealing with their cases and ‘limited information provided by the Home Office.’

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The report, by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, stated that “Brook House had a prison-like feel, and increased numbers of detainees meant that the centre was noisy and crowded, with limited outdoor space.

Brook House near GatwickBrook House near Gatwick
Brook House near Gatwick

"There was poor mobile phone reception and detainees had difficulties in contacting family and friends,” the report stated.

“Leaders did not provide enough operational support to the largely inexperienced staff group, many of whom reported low morale, but there were plans to begin to address this concern.

"Relationships between staff and detainees were generally good . Use of force remained high, but oversight had improved and in our confidential interviews no detainees reported being physically mistreated by staff.

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“Some detainees were held for unacceptably long periods of time, including one who had been in the centre for 16 months. Case progression was slow in too many cases, although inspectors were pleased to see that the Home Office’s Detention Engagement Team had resumed face-to-face contact with detainees, and there were plans to introduce more wing-based surgeries.

“The first attempt to remove detainees to Rwanda coincided with the week of the inspection. The Home Office held two poorly organised surgeries to inform detainees about the process, without using interpreters, and a pamphlet provided detainees with little useful information.

"Centre staff had not been well-informed about the operation, leaving them ill-prepared to support those affected.”

Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor said: “Leaders have worked to make sure that the general standards of care and accommodation at Brook House are reasonably good and the treatment by staff is mostly positive.

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"The Home Office will need to be more active, processing cases more quickly, keeping detainees informed and where possible releasing them into the community.

"A reduction in the overall numbers of detainees would mean the centre would feel safer and quieter and there could be more activities on offer.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We’re pleased inspectors found Brook House immigration removal centre to be safe and that people in detention were treated with respect. The welfare support offered was also positively recognised.

“These facilities are essential to tackling illegal migration, protecting the public and removing those with no right to be in the UK.”

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Brook House opened in March 2009 and is a purpose-built immigration removal centre with a prison design.

It holds a mix of detainees, including a number who are regarded as too challenging or difficult to manage in less secure centres and those waiting to be removed from the UK on organised charter flights. In May 2020, the contract for managing the centre passed from G4S to Serco.

An inquiry into alleged mistreatment of detainees at the centre was launched in 2017 after the BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama which featured undercover footage filmed at Brook House between April and August of that year when the centre was run by G4S.