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Investigation reveals catalogue of racism, excessive force and violence by immigration centre staff

AN INVESTIGATION into the treatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers by private custody staff in immigration custody centres has exposed a catalogue of racism, excessive force and violence.

In one instance, a mentally unwell 14-year-old boy who had crossed the Channel was kicked in the head.

Another 14-year-old boy was repeatedly kneed in the head.

In another incident, a woman was dragged in handcuffs in considerable pain despite offering no violence or aggression.

Human rights group Liberty said the investigation indicated an endemic racism and use of force against immigrants in Home Office detention and removal centres.

The investigation, published yesterday, was carried out by Liberty in partnership with a national newspaper.

Liberty said that documents from disciplinary cases obtained by freedom of information requests revealed a doubling in the number of staff suspended and investigated over whether they were fit and proper to detain and deport migrants, including vulnerable asylum-seekers.

The suspended staff were employed by outsourcing firm Mitie and disgraced security company Serco, which in 2019 was fined £22.9 million for fraudulently claiming fees under a contract to the Ministry of Justice.

Women for Refugee Women policy manager Gemma Lousley said: “The evidence of misconduct, use of force, inappropriate behaviour and racism uncovered by Liberty Investigates shows these issues remain endemic within detention centres.”

The government is planning to expand the numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers held in detention and removal centres.

A spokesperson for Mitie said it expected high standards of officers, who work “with care and compassion every day, often in challenging circumstances.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Detention and removal plays a vital role in controlling our borders and we take the welfare of people in our care very seriously.

“We work closely with our contractors to ensure the highest standards of staff and have robust disciplinary procedures in place. Where staff are found not to have met the professionalism required, the Home Office and our contractors will not hesitate in taking the appropriate action.

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