An inquiry into the treatment of detainees in an immigration removal centre in 2017 has been announced. The Brook House Public Inquiry has formally launched a call for evidence urging any witness to events at the Brook House immigration removal centre, between April and August 2017, to get in touch. However, they will also have the power to compel key witnesses to give evidence.
The chair of the inquiry Kate Eves is asking anyone involved, whether detainee, employee or any other witness, to come forward with information. This follows the exposure of mistreatment of detainees which came to public attention after shocking BBC Panorama broadcast Under-Cover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets in September 2017 – as reported on the Justice Gap (here).
The conditions revealed included holding asylum seekers with foreign criminals, drug use, and self harm alongside covert footage of officers appearing to abuse and mock detainees recorded. This prompted a request from the chief executive of Equality and Human Rights Commission to then Home Secretary Amber Rudd for an inquiry into the events that occured at Brook House, stating there had been violations of Article 3, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Now an inquiry into the events will begin. ‘The treatment revealed in the Panorama documentary was shocking and has no place in a decent and humane immigration detention system,’ commented Kate Eves. ‘It is this Inquiry’s role to examine what took place at Brook House and how treatment of the nature experienced was able to happen.’ Kate Eves herself has extensive experience in the detention centre field, supervising over 200 investigations and working directly with detainees, prisoners and families of those who have lost loved ones in these circumstances.
The chair has acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 in the practicalities of gathering witness statements.There will likely be need for interpreters and support workers for many of the witnesses in face-to -face meetings to assist vulnerable people therefore will aim to delay these meetings until restrictions have been sufficiently lifted. She has said she will ‘do everything I can to ensure that Core Participants can participate to the greatest possible extent’. For now, efforts will be focused on analysing existing evidence from the documentary and the preparation of taking statements.
Brook House had been privately run by security company G4S along with Tinsley House. They have reportedly made over £14 million profit from running the centre. In February 2020 it was announced that Serco would be taking a £200 million contract to run the two centres despite reports of mistreatment themselves.