September has been a significant month for our campaign: first, we saw a new regime installed to manage Hassockfield/Derwentside – marked inevitably by the replacement of Mitie’s ‘Welcome’ board at the gates with Serco’s. We’ve found the new one just as useful for carrying our messages, as you can see! We wait to see what else will change – though unusually, our demonstrators on Saturday were able walk down to the IRC entrance to deliver a letter to the new manager.
The dreadful toll of detention is recognised publicly at last
Then this past week came the publication of the long awaited Brook House Inquiry Report into the shocking conditions in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, at Gatwick, called for after a BBC Panorama expose in 2017. Calling loud and clear for a maximum detention period of 28 days.
This is what the Brook House Inquiry Chair, Kate Eves, had to say at the start of her report summary:
“Out of sight, out of mind: places of detention are the hidden spaces in our society. Most people will have no experience of being incarcerated and few will have worked in such environments. They are places where communication is restricted, rights and freedoms are curtailed, where isolation from loved ones is a fact of life, and where the toll of detention can have an impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing. For anyone who has been detained by the State, it is a profoundly life-altering experience.”
The No to Hassockfield Campaign can confirm this devastating description applies as much to the IRC here in County Durham as to Brook House or any other Home Office place of incarceration.
What’s the report all about?
Freedom of Movement explains:
‘The inquiry was set up in November 2019 to investigate the mistreatment of people who were detained at Brook House immigration removal centre between 1 April and 31 August 2017. That period relates to that covered by whistleblower turned undercover reporter Callum Tulley in the BBC’s Panorama documentary ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’.
The government did not want this inquiry to take place. It only came about due to the persistence of some of the affected detainees and their legal teams who brought judicial review proceedings to force an inquiry. The Secretary of State at the time went to the Court of Appeal to try to avoid it taking place in this format. At the inquiry itself, the Home Office continued to argue against the ability of the inquiry to find that there had been a breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Looking at the evidence you can see why they were trying to avoid this.
Over 100,000 pages of material and over 90 hours of footage were reviewed by the inquiry. Public hearings took place over 46 days and oral evidence was heard from 73 witnesses. Oral and written evidence was taken from 25 people who had previously been detained.
The report recommended‘those detained at IRCs, including Brook House, should only be kept there for a maximum of 28 days.
It says it is ‘clear from the evidence of detained people, those who worked at Brook House, NGOs, and inspection and monitoring bodies that indefinite detention caused uncertainty, frustration and anxiety for detained people, with a negative impact on their health and wellbeing’ and ‘contributed to conditions where mistreatment could occur more easily.’
Hot on the heels of the report’s publication came a reminder from David Neal,Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration of howcompassionate reforms to our detention system following the Shaw report of 2015 are being quietly dismantled….
“I warned ministers about our disgraceful UK detention centres. Their solution? Stop the inspections”
Our next monthly demonstration is on Saturday 21st October. See our Home page or social media for more details.