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FORMER detainees have described facing degrading, abusive and offensive treatment while being held at Brook House, an inquiry looking at mistreatment at the site has heard.
The Brook House inquiry, which began on Tuesday, is the first public inquiry into immigration detention in Britain.
Called in 2019, the probe seeks to establish what happened at the detention centre between April and August 2017, after undercover footage broadcast by BBC Panorama showed alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers at the then G4S-run site.
Continuing his opening statement on Wednesday, counsel to the inquiry Brian Altman QC summarised the evidence of former detainees of Brook House, who have been given anonymity.
The inquiry heard how a Nigerian national was detained in Brook House between March and April 2017, despite being a victim of torture. The former detainee, who is a core participant in the inquiry, has been diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression, Mr Altman said.
“He describes how he was threatened with staff at Brook House, and treated in a way that was often degrading and sometimes offensive and abusive,” he said.
Speaking about another detainee, Mr Altman said the man recalled being restrained for five-and-a-half hours ahead of a deportation flight which he was not booked on, but staff claimed he was. He found this experience “painful and humiliating from start to finish,” Mr Altman said.
On the first day of hearings, the inquiry heard evidence from whistleblower Callum Tully, who worked as a Brook House officer from 2015 to 2017.
Mr Altman said [the whistleblower] described a “disturbing culture” at Brook House where staff showed “apathy to vulnerable, disturbed or distressed detained persons.”
Brook House officers who were deemed too empathetic, helpful or kind to detainees were themselves marginalised, criticised or mocked, he said, adding that there was “visible hostility” towards raising concerns.
One of the incidents which drove Mr Tully to go to the BBC was witnessing staff mocking and laughing at a detainee who was standing naked in a room in the solitary confinement block of Brook House.
The inquiry, which will run from November 2021 to March 2022, will look at whether the culture among staff contributed to the mistreatment, the use of force and clinical provision at the site.
It also seeks to determine whether abuse of detainees amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment — breaching human rights laws.
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