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THE Home Office has been accused of misleading a public inquiry and turning a blind eye to the “toxic” culture of abuse, corruption, racism and drug-dealing at the notorious Brook House immigration removal centre.
Inquiry chair Kate Eves today released her final report following a three-year investigation into the shocking treatment of detainees exposed by a BBC Panorama investigation.
She detailed 19 times their human rights to not be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment were breached at the G4S-run site between April and August 2017.
Concluding the culture among the staff at Brook House was “toxic,” she said: “I have rejected the narrative portrayed by both the Home Office and G4S in their evidence that the events at Brook House were primarily the result of a small minority of G4S staff.
“It is a narrative which seeks to distance both organisations from their responsibility for the prevailing culture at the time.”
She said both organisations were aware of the “significant understaffing” at the centre and that the contractor’s senior management team was “dysfunctional.”
“I am clear that this was not because the safeguards themselves are poor,” she added.
“Rather, there was too often a widespread disregard or a lack of understanding of how to implement them in the way they were designed.
“Concerningly, I have also heard evidence that this confusion and flawed implementation may persist.”
Her report detailed a case when a custody officer “placed his hands firmly around the neck of one detained person, leaned forward over him and said in a quiet voice: ‘You f***ing piece of shit… I’m going to put you to f***ing sleep.’”
She added: “Illicit drug use by detained people at Brook House was a significant problem during the relevant period, particularly with the new psychoactive substance known as ‘spice’,” with it common knowledge that detention officers were “smuggling drugs and smartphones into Brook House and supplying them to detained people in exchange for money.”
Ms Eves, who said a “hands-off approach by Home Office staff on the ground” had contributed to the staff culture, added the inquiry had revealed “the use of abusive, racist and derogatory language towards detained people by G4S staff.
“I am particularly concerned by the lack of reflection by some of those who remain working at Brook House, a number of whom are now in more senior roles.”
She made 33 recommendations including a 28-day limit to detention at the centre, which was designed as a Category B prison close to the aeroplane din of Gatwick Airport.
The Home Office said the government “has made significant improvements.”
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