G4S staff suspended after claims of abuse on detainees at immigration removal centre
Brook House Immigration Removal Centre was first opened in 2009 and is privately owned by G4S, which has been paid more than £100m by the Home Office to run the facility.
Within a year of its opening, Brook House was branded “fundamentally unsafe”; and in 2012 a report surfaced claiming that there were significant concerns regarding the treatment of detainees in the centre. Brook House was built to hold up to 508 detainees: it is currently holding almost 400 male asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, and foreign national offenders facing deportation. Following the recent release of a BBC Panorama programme documenting the abuse, mocking, and assault of detainees by officers, G4S has been forced to take action. The agency put out a statement confirming that the staff responsible for the abuse had been suspended as a “precaution” pending further inquiries and investigation. Nine officers have been suspended as a result of the documentary that was released last week.
This is not the first time that Brook House has been at the centre of an investigation. Other reports have surfaced that drug use is widespread amongst many of the detainees and that self-harm and attempted suicides have become the norm. The managing director for custodial and detention services, Jerry Petherick, has condemned the behaviour of the officers involved stating that their conduct is not representative of how G4S operates.
This BBC footage, recorded by hidden cameras, shows “chaos, incompetence and abuse”. Additionally, Panorama has claimed that many over-stayers held at the removal centre are forced to share rooms with foreign criminals who have completed their sentences and have been transferred to the centre. The camera captures what is believed to be a 14-15 year old boy who was placed in a room with a foreign criminal, who encourages him to use spice, the drug of choice in detention.
The primary concern of many of the detainees is that they are being held indefinitely, some for months, others years. The UK is recognised as the only European country that does not place a limit on the amount of time an individual can be detained pending removal.
As a consequence, the Home Office has encouraged a climate of hostility and dehumanisation towards asylum seekers. This has perhaps encouraged officers at Brook House to perpetuate abuse, disrespect, and aggressive behaviour towards the detainees. In an interview with the Huffington Post UK GS4 has claimed that all staff on the frontline is recruited, trained, supervised, and inspected by other professionals. However, as evidenced by the footage released by BBC, many of these professionals are too often content to leave the least qualified recruits unattended to manage complex and dangerous situations. This is exacerbated by poor training, low wages, and exhausting shifts.
The most immediate and achievable solution toward the improvement of conditions in these institutions would be for the Home Office to reassess its stance on indefinite immigration detention. This coupled with regular reviews of the institution and its staff would encourage better management of facilities like Brook House. Most importantly, there is the hope that Brook House and other removal centres would eventually be closed down as they are unnecessary and costly given that fewer than half of the individuals detained are eventually deported.
Over the years Lupins has worked tirelessly with many detainees in Brook House not only with regards to bail but also in challenging unlawful detention and removal.