Immigration Detainees To Confront 'Abusers' In Home Office Public Inquiry

Former Immigration Detainees To Confront ‘Abusers’ In Home Office Public Inquiry

The Home Office must conduct a public inquiry into alleged abuse at an immigration removal centre following a legal challenge by two former detainees. 

High Court judge Mrs Justice May has today (June 14) ruled the government’s planned inquiry into reports of mistreatment at Brook House, run by private security firm G4S, was not in compliance with human rights law.

Clandestinely-filmed footage from inside the centre, revealed in a 2017 BBC panorama documentary, appears to show an officer strangling a detainee and threatening to put him “to sleep”.

Detention and healthcare staff then allegedly conspire to cover it up.

I brought this case because people need to know the truth about immigration detention.

BB, Claimant Challenging the UK Government’s Investigation

The detainee was a young asylum seeker with severe mental health problems who officers were supposed to be watching over because of high risk of suicide and self-harm, according to law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG), which is representing the claimants.

“I brought this case because people need to know the truth about immigration detention,” said an ex-detainee, known only as BB.

“The abuse shown on Panorama wasn’t even half of what really went on.

“It was every day and we were trapped in there, never knowing when it would end or when we would be released.”

‘Unacceptably Degrading And Dehumanising’

Image Credit: Eye DJ/Flickr

In October, the Home Office had agreed to appoint the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) to undertake an independent bespoke investigation.

However, it then refused to provide the PPO with powers to compel witnesses to attend or the means to hold hearings in public and offered no funding for legal representation for victims to enable their participation.

Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention requires states to protect their citizens from “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

It also places a positive obligation on them to launch effective investigations into credible allegations of serious ill-treatment by public officials.

During today’s hearing, Justice May ruled that it was necessary to hold the inquiry in public to ensure the detainees’ right are “publicly vindicated” in consideration of the fact they are “frequently subject to hostile political and media rhetoric”.

On the need to compel witnesses, she added that immigration detainees “are not convicted persons serving a sentence, they are not being detained as punishment”.

“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,” she said.

“It is right, in those circumstances, to afford the abused detainee an opportunity to see and confront their abuser on equal terms, as a means of restoring dignity and respect to the person from whom it has been so wholly stripped away.”

She also ruled that the claimants must be afforded legal aid in order to “properly identify and confront the abuse which they say was meted out to them”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We will consider this ruling carefully. It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

Featured Image Credit: mrgarethm /Flickr

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About the Author

Aaron Walawalkar

News and Digital Editor
Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK. View all posts by Aaron Walawalkar.
Former Immigration Detainees To Confront ‘Abusers’ In Home Office Public Inquiry
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