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Report into Brook House abuse published as Home Office launches “alternatives to detention” pilot

Report into Brook House abuse published as Home Office launches “alternatives to detention” pilot

An investigation into abuse at Brook House immigration removal centre has castigated those in charge of the privately run detention centre. The report, commissioned by outsourcing firm G4S following an exposé by the BBC’s Panorama programme last year, concludes that Brook House is afflicted with incompetent management, poor facilities and chronic understaffing.

The authors, from the consultancy Verita, say that

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.

A failure to retain staff and low levels of staffing have been a problem at Brook House since at least the second half of 2016.

Weak management has compounded the staffing problems. The senior management team has a history of dysfunctional and un-collegial behaviour.

Staff at Brook House told investigators about a “significant increase in drug use and drug finds in the centre” and that “incidents of bullying and violence had not been investigated properly since 2015.” The report also comments on cleanliness, bad food, lack of activities for detainees and an “unchecked assertive, laddish culture” among some staff (many others were praised for their commitment). The so-called Independent Monitoring Board meant to oversee conditions for detainees were found to “over-empathise with the G4S management team and the Home Office, rather than to hold them vigorously to account”.

The report, written by Kate Lampard and Ed Marsden, calls for the Home Office take to take “greater responsibility” for goings-on at Brook House. There are 52 recommendations for improvements, many of them urgent.

The Lampard/Marsden report forms part of the G4S response to Panorama’s revelations of detainees suffering severe violence, taunting and general mistreatment. It emerged in October that the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman is also investigating conditions at the centre.

Separately, the Home Office has announced a pilot scheme aimed at keeping vulnerable women out of immigration detention. The department said in a press release:

Working in partnership with Action Foundation, a charity which provides support to asylum seekers, migrants and refugees, the first phase began today and will see up to 21 women supported in the community who would otherwise be detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

“A number” of other pilot schemes will be launched in 2019. Julian Prior, CEO of Action Foundation, said:

For many years we have successfully supported some of the most vulnerable people at the end of their asylum claim to avoid destitution, and provide the stability and help they need to make some informed choices about their future.

We are very pleased to use this opportunity to increase our work in this area by supporting women who would otherwise be detained through this new pilot called Action Access.

The pilot forms part of the Home Office response to the second Shaw Review of immigration detention, with the department saying that it is committed to “developing alternatives to detention”.

 

Conor James McKinney

CJ is Free Movement's deputy editor.

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