JRS UK has again called for an end to the use of detention for immigration control following the publication of a report detailing abuse of people detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). The report is the outcome of an independent inquiry into abuse by staff of people detained at Brook House IRC between April and August 2017. The abuse first came to light when an employee at Brook House was so horrified by what he witnessed that he worked with BBC Panorama to make a documentary exposing it, “Under Cover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets”. The report, published today, draws on testimony of people detained at Brook House and finds numerous instances of violent abuse against detained people including dangerous uses of force and force used to “provoke and punish”. It identifies 19 incidents of treatment amounting to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment including – that is, treatment in contravention of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) – and notes that it is especially concerning there were so many incidents within such a short timeframe.
The report calls for systemic changes in the way immigration detention operates, including a 28-day time limit on immigration detention, which is currently indefinite. The report is published just as sweeping new powers to detain people, and maintain their detention, arbitrarily are about to come into force under the Illegal Migration Act; and relatedly against the background of the aggressive expansion of the detention estate.
Sarah Teather, JRS UK’s Director, said: “This report is further, painful proof of just how destructive immigration detention is. The horrifying events in Brook House are not isolated. They are part and parcel of a wider system. Detention routinely dehumanises people and denies them justice. It causes lasting damage to those subjected to it. If we are serious about this never happening again, the use of detention for immigration control must end. Instead, the government is aggressively expanding it and even planning to subject children to routine and indefinite detention. Sweeping new powers allowing the government to detain people arbitrarily are about to come into force. This is outrageous, and the inquiry report again shows why. It is not too late to take a different course.”
The publication of the report follows the death of Frank Ospina in Colnbrook IRC, and a mass suicide attempt by a group of men held at Harmondsworth IRC, both in March of this year. It sits in the context of a wide body of research and testimony pointing to the lasting trauma caused by immigration detention, including research by JRS UK. Introducing the report into Brook House, the inquiry chair expressed concern about a lack of progress towards cultural change.
Naomi Blackwell, JRS UK’s Detention Outreach Manager, said: “The evidence of the men subjected to horrific abuse at Brook House shines a light on the deep harm caused by immigration detention. Supporting people held in detention, we see time and again the huge impact on their mental health, and the way that normal human relationships are broken by detention.”
The inquiry was set up on 4th November 2019, and grew out of a special investigation of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.