The public inquiry into treatment and conditions at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre has heard evidence that staff smuggled in drugs for detainees to sell. The inquiry into Brook House was triggered by a series of investigations by BBC Panorama in 2017, which uncovered mistreatment of detainees, widespread drug use and high levels of self-harm.
Speaking to the inquiry this week, one detainee has said custody officers prepared packages of contraband in the carpark, including drugs and weapons, and sold them to detainees inside. Those being held transferred money to staff for the parcels, then sold their contents to their cellmates. The witness statement revealed use of cannabis and spice was widespread, with catastrophic effects on the levels of violence and poor mental health in the centre. The witness, codenamed D687, said using the drugs made his mental health worse, and in 2017 he tried to hang himself.
He said: ‘I was treated like an animal, something less than human. It has left an impact on me and my mental health which I don’t think I’ll ever get over. When I entered Brook House I felt relatively normal. When I left I felt broken, hopeless and mad.’
The Inquiry was set up in November 2019 following the successful judicial review challenge brought by two former detainees and is the first of its kind into immigration detention in the UK.
In that judicial review the judge, May J stated: ‘Immigration detainees are a uniquely vulnerable group of people. They are not convicted persons serving a sentence, they are not being detained as punishment. Unlike most prisoners, they do not know for how long they are going to be confined.
‘Detention under these conditions is diminishing and depersonalising enough, but it is unacceptably degrading and dehumanising where there is repeated and apparently casual abuse on the part of staff employed by the state to supervise and look after such detainees.’
More former detainees are expected to provide witness statements about their mistreatment at Brook House this week as part of the second phase of hearings, which is due to last six weeks.