Inquiry Uncovers Horrific Abuse at Gatwick Migrant Centre, Calls for Reform


A scathing public inquiry into Brook House, a migrant removal centre near Gatwick Airport, has uncovered a toxic environment pervaded by maltreatment and prejudice. Detainees were forcibly moved in a state of nudity and frequently subjected to gratuitous pain, while staff members aggressively deployed racist and derogatory language.

This investigation was launched in the aftermath of a revealing 2017 BBC Panorama exposé. In response to the disturbing findings, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has vowed that the Home Office will scrutinize the report’s conclusions thoroughly.

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Inquiry chair Kate Eves has urged the government to amend the existing laws and install a 28-day threshold for detaining individuals at such establishments. Currently, there is no cap on the duration for which detainees can be held as they await either deportation proceedings or resolution of their asylum applications.

The resultant inquiry report presented a damning representation of Brook House as a crucible of stress and distress. Additionally, the inquiry detected 19 episodes of mistreatment over a five-month span that violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards individuals from inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.

Mistreatment instances ranged from unnecessary use of force against multiple detainees to the application of dangerous restraint techniques. Moreover, detainees attempting suicide faced inappropriate and degrading comments, while others endured homophobic remarks. In one case, a detainee was initially denied help following a suicide attempt.

Eves averred that Brook House’s conditions were woefully lacking in decency and safety, and the environment fell significantly short of caring for detainees and staff alike. She condemned the facility as completely unfit for detaining individuals beyond minimal periods.

The chair has suggested 33 critical enhancements which, if embraced, would prevent a recurrence of the shameful incidents at Brook House. These would also guarantee a more humane, empathetic, and professional ambience, the report affirmed.

The report further highlighted that the indefinite nature of immigration detention generated substantial uncertainty and anxiety among detainees, adversely impacting their physical and mental wellbeing. Detainees contended with overcrowding, unclean surroundings, the constant noise from nearby Gatwick’s aircraft, limited activities, and the rampant use of the dread-inducing drug Spice.

Among the detainees were former foreign national offenders facing deportation, as well as asylum seekers or individuals denied the right to stay in the UK. The investigation rattled cages by unearthing incidents where staff had resort to inappropriate and dangerous force, with groups of custody officers hauling naked and screaming detainees through the corridors of Brook House. Abusive and racist language was also prevalent, including instances where such language was used against detainees contemplating suicide.

The catalyst for this broader examination was a BBC documentary detailing the abuse of teenage prisoners at Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, Kent. This report inspired a custody officer at Brook House to share his experiences at the centre, which he deemed as horrifying.

The recommendation to restrict detention durations may pose a significant conundrum for the government, especially in the light of recent “Get Tough” immigration policies which could lead to increased detentions of small boat arrivals. The predicament has been further embellished by a Colombian man’s tragic suicide at a Heathrow immigration removal centre.

The inquiry has delivered a stern warning to the government, emphasizing that their lack of action on prior recommendations represents a bleak tale that pervades this report. It has implored the Home Office to redress these issues within six months.

Braverman has acknowledged the centre’s systemic failings and neglect to protect the welfare of detained individuals. She has assured that the centre has made significant advancements since the egregious 2017 events.

Reacting to the shocking revelations, shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock stated that the government had unequivocally failed to deliver control or compassion. Brook House, which can accommodate more than 500 men and features the same security levels as a Category B prison, has been shrouded in controversy since the documentary.

Noteworthy voices such as Sacha Deshmukh from Amnesty UK and Enver Solomon, the Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, have rightfully criticized the government for its inability to provide basic levels of care and humanity for vulnerable individuals in detention. They have called on the government to reassess plans to increase detentions under its new Illegal Migration Act.