Notorious security firm under fire again as officers accused of assaulting detainees
by Felicity Collier
HATED private security firm G4S suspended nine members of its staff at a detention centre yesterday following allegations of abuse and assault, sparking fresh condemnation of Britain’s “broken” immigration system.
An investigation has been launched after the BBC’s Panorama claimed it had undercover footage of officers “mocking, abusing and even assaulting detainees” at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, near Gatwick.
The programme said it had also found “widespread self-harm and attempted suicides” at the facility and that drug use there is “rife.”
G4S announced that nine members of staff have been suspended pending further investigation into the claims in the latest scandal to hit the notorious firm.
The claims have triggered widespread criticism not only of the firm but of Britain’s cruel immigration system where migrants are said to be held in indefinite detention “for the convenience of the Home Office.”
Lisa Matthews, co-ordinator of Right to Remain, which campaigns against injustices in the asylum and immigration systems, described the allegations as “sickening but not shocking, because immigration detention is in itself abusive and hidden away from the public eye.”
She said: “Detention is violent, harmful and immoral. It cannot be acceptable to deprive people of their liberty solely for the administrative convenience of the state.”
The group calls for radical reform of a “broken and wasteful” system.
Separately to the allegations, an official inspection of Brook House has raised concerns that the facility is “stark and impersonal” with unsatisfactory sanitary facilities, making detainees feel as though they are being held in a prison.
Four men had been held there for more than two years and the average length of detention had increased from 28 to 48 days.
The single most common reason for detention, according to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, is seeking asylum.
Britain is the only country in Europe that detains migrants indefinitely, a practice that has been criticised by a number of monitoring bodies, Detention Forum said.
“Anyone who does not have a secure immigration status is at risk of detention. Detention separates families, including parents from their children,” the group said, adding that nearly 30,000 people are routinely locked up every year “for administrative reasons in prison-like conditions.”
The Scottish National Party’s spokesperson on Immigration, asylum and border control Stuart McDonald MP said: “People are simply being detained for the convenience of the Home Office, for an unlimited time, without committing any crime.”
Labour also hit out at the practice. “These are people who are not criminals, they are being detained,” Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire said.
“And the use of detention, unfortunately, over the last few years has, by the Home Office, become a port of first resort rather than last resort as it is supposed to be.”
Yesterday, the Home Office confirmed that MPs are reporting people to its immigration enforcement hotline.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that the government had received 482 tipoffs from MPs between 2014 and 2016, the website politics.co.uk said.
It raises the possibility that MPs are reporting their own constituents following request for help from them.
The Green Party hit out at MP collusion with the Home Office calling it a “fundamental betrayal of trust” and demanded the MPs involved come clean about how they discovered the information.