‘Unthinkably cruel’ policy at UK immigration centre led to ‘dramatic increase’ in self harm and suicidal ideation, says new report

Campaign groups have criticised the Home Office after reports have found major issues in a number of immigration removal centres

‘Unthinkably cruel’ policy at UK immigration centre led to ‘dramatic increase’ in self harm and suicidal ideation, says new report

Self-harm, mental health issues and suicidal ideation increased dramatically in an immigration removal centre in England at the end of 2020, according to a new report.

The report by the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) into conditions at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre throughout 2020 found that “circumstances in the centre amounted to inhumane treatment of the whole detainee population”.

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‘Not a safe place’

The IMB has expressed grave concerns about a period when the centre, based in Crawley, West Sussex, was operating a “compressed programme” of deportations to European countries through the Dublin Convention.

During this period, those held in the centre had primarily arrived in the UK via small boat crossings across the channel.

The IMB notes that “the characteristics of these detainees made them especially vulnerable, including trauma experienced in their countries of origin and/or during their journeys”.

Many were rushed through a deportation process without being given adequate information or being screened for signs of modern slavery, torture or being under-age.

The report notes that a significant number of detainees were later released “having been exposed to the harmful effects of detention in the interim,” with more than 70 per cent of those held between August and December released.

This suggests that the severe harm caused by the detention was, in many cases, pointless.

A number of factors led the IMB to conclude that it was “not a safe place for vulnerable detainees,” during this months-long period of increased removals, “evidenced by the high levels of self-harm and suicidal ideation”.

Data shows that the number of people held at Brook House who were being monitored due to concerns they were at risk of self-harm or suicide, and those who did commit acts of self harm, increased sharply in August.

The IMB said that this increase is “directly linked to the higher level of vulnerability” of those who’d made small-boat crossings, and “the intensive programme” of charter flight deportations.

In the last five months of 2020 the number of people who required constant supervision due to a risk of suicide or self-harm was between 25 and 35 per cent of all those held at the centre.

In its report, the IMB said it “struggles to convey how disturbing” this is.

‘An unthinkably cruel policy’

Experts have also raised concerns about failures to adequately screen people being detained at the centre for signs of torture and/or modern slavery.

The IMB found that “there was a failure to identify vulnerabilities such as age and torture claims at an early stage”.

Speaking to NationalWorld, Maya Esslemont, Director of After Exploitation said it is “deeply concerning” that suspected victims of modern slavery and torture are being detained without having been adequately screened.

She said: “Whilst almost anyone held in prison-like settings is put at risk of future psychological, medical or financial harm, survivors of torture and modern slavery face particular risk of suicidal ideation and medical deterioration within detention.

“A failure to recognise and release such groups of people from detention immediately is an unthinkably cruel policy decision."