At the time of the inspection, Brook House IRC was an unsafe place.
Brook House IRC at Gatwick airport opened in March 2009. It is run by G4S and holds around 400 male detainees.
A year after it opened, Brook House was fundamentally unsafe, said Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing a report on an announced inspection of the immigration removal centre at Gatwick airport.
By the time of the inspection, in March 2010, managers could be expected to have resolved the teething problems often experienced by new custodial establishments.
Surveys, interviews and observations all showed a degree of despair among detainees about safety which inspectors had rarely encountered.
– bullying and violence were serious problems and – unusually for the immigration estate – drugs were a serious problem;
– many detainees were ex-prisoners and a number compared their experience in Brook House negatively with that in prison;
– there had been significant staff turnover, and while many staff tried hard to maintain control, many felt embattled and some reported feeling unsupported by managers;
– as a result, use of force was high, separation was often used as a punishment, contrary to the Detention Centre Rules, and freedom of movement had been restricted;
– many key safety procedures were poor: reception was stark, first night procedures were inadequate, response to security intelligence was slow and there was no drugs strategy;
– superficially, relationships between most staff and detainees were reasonable, but interaction was limited and staff needed more support and training in working with detainees;
– there were insufficient activity places, because Brook House had been designed on the assumption that detainees would stay for a short time, but in reality many stayed for lengthy periods;
– mental health services were inadequate; and
– there was no multi-disciplinary risk management of those about to be removed to minimise difficulties and distress, and two oppressive holding rooms for detainees facing removal were entirely inappropriate, lacked governance and needed to be immediately decommissioned.
– Three detainees had been held for more than three years. A further two had been detained for more than two years and nine months. Despite the suspension of enforced removals to Harare, ten Zimbabweans were held at the centre, and one had been in detention for three years and four months. Seventeen Somalis were detained notwithstanding the severe problems of removal to Somalia. A stateless detainee was also being held.
There were some positive aspects: those at risk of self-harm were well cared for, faith provision was good, and there was in general good access to the internet, phones and faxes.
Anne Owers said:
“The challenges of opening a new immigration removal centre should not be under-estimated, particularly with inexperienced staff and challenging detainees, many of them ex-prisoners. The challenge at Brook House was significantly compounded by poor design, which built in boredom by providing too little purposeful activity on the erroneous assumption that detainees would only be staying a few days.
“But none of this can excuse the fundamentally unsafe state of Brook House, which must be urgently addressed by G4S and UKBA. In particular, staff need more support and visible leadership, order and control must be restored to ensure safety, relationships and dynamic security must be improved