Inspection finds issues of concern at Gatwick Immigration Removal Centre

By agency reporter
September 1, 2018

Care for people, including families and children, being held in two separate immigration removal detention facilities at Tinsley House, near Gatwick, has been commended by inspectors.

However, two new reports published by Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, following separate inspections of the facilities in April 2018, raise concerns over and above the quality of day-to-day life in the units.

Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre

This small immigration removal centre (IRC), close to the larger Brook House IRC, held just under 140 adult male detainees in April. As in previous inspections, Mr Clarke said, the centre was “calm and stable and had a largely positive atmosphere, although detainees were often anxious and upset about their cases.”

There was little violence or tension between detainees. However, over 40 per cent of men reported feeling unsafe. Mr Clarke added: “While this was often a result of uncertainty over their immigration cases, many detainees told us staff had threatened to have them transferred to the neighbouring Brook House IRC and it was a concern that detainees and staff regarded being moved to another IRC as a punishment.”

Support for those at Tinsley House who were assessed as at risk of self-harm was generally good. However, inspectors reviewed ten cases where the centre’s doctor reported that the detainee may have been a victim of torture. In eight cases, the Home Office accepted the report as evidence of torture but nevertheless maintained detention. Fewer people were detained for long periods than inspectors often find at other IRCs. Over a third of those detained for removal were eventually released from the centre.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “In some areas outcomes had deteriorated and systems for safeguarding detainees required continuous focus. There was also a danger that the needs of Brook House would undermine the focus on Tinsley House. However, overall, Tinsley House remained a reasonably decent and safe centre, and one of the better establishments we have inspected.”

Family detention at Tinsley House IRC

The pre-departure accommodation (PDA) holds people being returned under the Home Office’s family returns process. It is a last resort when other attempts to remove families have failed, and they are held for no more than five days. Nineteen families had been held in the PDA since June 2017, when it opened. Over 1,300 families had been removed voluntarily through the family returns process since the last inspection in 2016.

Inspectors found the quality of care for two families held during the inspection to be impressive, maintaining standards seen at its predecessor, the Cedars unit.

However, Mr Clarke said: “Attempts to remove the small number of detained families were largely unsuccessful and the unit was being used even less frequently than its predecessor. In the 11 months that it had been opened, 19 families had been detained in the pre-departure accommodation and only four of them were eventually removed. This was troubling given the harmful effect that arrest and detention inevitably has on children who witness their parents becoming very distressed; during the inspection, children saw their parents being physically restrained.”

Both the families seen by inspectors were released. Case studies of the families’ experiences in detention – including arrests in which more than eight people entered their homes early in the morning – are published in the report.

Mr Clarke added: “Detaining families is very costly and carries a considerable human impact, especially for children. The bar for detaining children with their families has rightly been set high. However, the routine failure of detention to achieve the objective of removal suggests that it could be set still higher, and careful consideration should be given to the purpose served by pre-departure accommodation.”

* Read the Tinsley House IRC report here and the family detention report here, both published on 30 August 2018

* HM Inspectorate of Prisons https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/

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