Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

In the report published today, the Prison Inspector urges the Home Office to take a ‘remedial action’ to address continuing long-term immigration detention of migrants, after finding a number of cases of excessive detention at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre.

During the inspection of Brook House Immigration Removal Centre near Gatwick Airport in October and November 2016, the inspection team found 23 individuals who had been detained for over a year.  Four of these had been detained for over two years and the longest period of detention they found was two and a half years.

With a major Westminster Hall debate on immigration detention taking place in a few days’ time, the report provides further proof of the government’s failure to deliver detention reform, more than a year later after it was pledged by the Government.

While acknowledging general improvements in detention condition at Brook House, the inspection team is critical of the fact that no analysis has been conducted by the Home Office on why average length of detention increased from 28 days to 48 days since the previous inspection in 2013.  The report states ‘(i)n the absence of such analysis, it was hard to see how detention periods could be systematically reduced and the inevitably negative outcomes for detainees mitigated’.  The inspection also found that the average cumulative length of detention was three months, which was described as ‘too long’.

The UK remains the only country in Europe that detains migrants without a time limit.  Over the years, this policy has received severe criticism by a number of bodies, including the Shaw Review, the government’s own review of immigration detention which published in January 2016 and the cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention who produced their report in 2015.  The UK’s National Preventative Mechanism, to which the Prison Inspector belongs, also called for a time limit on immigration detention.

Eiri Ohtani, Project Director of the Detention Forum said:

‘That the UK detains migrants without a time limit for administrative convenience is shameful.  That the UK has been failing to address this damaging and expensive practice is doubly shameful.  The UK has been able to introduce a time limit for families with children and pregnant women: it must be possible to introduce a similar policy for other categories of individuals.’

‘Jon’ who took part in Unlocking Detention’s live Q & A session last year from Brook House where he had been detained described his experience of indefinite detention as follows:

James Wilson, Director of Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group which regularly visits Brooks House IRC said:

“We welcome this detailed report by HMIP and the progress detention centre staff have made since the last inspection.  But the underlying picture remains disturbing.  As one of those held in detention is quoted as saying in the report: ‘I feel like a prisoner without a crime’.  This is precisely what Brook House and other UK detention centres are: prisons without criminal convictions, and without the safeguards and time limits that protect the rights of those in prison. “


You can read ‘Jon’s Q & A session here.

The Detention Forum’s analysis of the latest immigration detention statistics is here.