20 September 2023, The Tablet

JRS urges end of detention as means of immigration control

Sarah Teather: ‘The horrifying events in Brook House are not isolated.’

JRS urges end of detention as means of immigration control

Placard against the UK deportation flights to Rwanda near Brook House Immigration Removal Centre on June 12, 2022.
horst friedrichs / Alamy

The Jesuit Refugee Service UK is urging the government to stop using detention as a method of controlling immigration after the publication of a devastating new report chronicling the abuse of people held in an immigration centre near Gatwick Airport.

The report of the public inquiry about Brook House Immigration Removal Centre identifies 19 separate incidents of mistreatment amounting to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment which contravenes the EU Convention on Human Rights.

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.”

Published yesterday, the report draws on testimony of people detained at Brook House IRC. It includes numerous instances of violent abuse against detained people such as the dangerous use of force as well as force being used to “provoke and punish”. It notes with special concern the number of incidents occurring over a short time frame, and calls for systemic changes in the way immigration detention operates. 

On September 28, the government is due to implement the Illegal Migration Act which provides the state with expanded powers to detain people and maintain them in detention arbitrarily.

Ms Teather added: “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 report is the outcome of an independent inquiry into the abuse by staff of people detained at Brook House IRC between April and August 2017.



As a society we urgently need to learn from the inquiry into Brook House, writes Sophie Cartwright



News of the abuse first emerged after a 21-year-old custody officer at Brook House wore a hidden camera on behalf of the BBC to expose the mistreatment of people held in the centre. This led to the Panorama documentary Under Cover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets, broadcast on September 4, 2017.

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.”

Set up on November 4 2019, the inquiry grew out of a special investigation into the mistreatment of people held at Brook House by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.



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