In their annual report for 2020, the Independent Monitoring Board for Brook House IRC highlight concerns about the effect of Home Office charter flight operations to remove people arriving on small boats from the UK in the latter part of 2020.
Particular findings are:
Circumstances in Brook House related to the charter flight programme meant it was not a safe place for vulnerable men who had crossed the Channel in small boats. This was evidenced by high levels of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Some systems did not adapt quickly enough to the needs of this vulnerable population. For example, men were not adequately informed of what would happen to them on removal to the EU; there were serious delays in assessing torture claims; men shared accommodation with others who had self-harmed or attempted suicide, and healthcare services were over-stretched and did not have sufficient resources to provide support to manage the increased levels of fear and anxiety.
The concentrated nature of the schedule of flights, in the circumstances at Brook House, amounted to inhumane treatment of the whole detained population.
72% of men detained for removal between August and December were later released. This raises questions about why many were detained in the first place and why they were unnecessarily exposed to these detrimental conditions in particular, and the harmful effects of detention in general.
Positives noted by the IMB for 2020 include:
Men detained at Brook House were generally treated humanely while there.
Staff–detainee relationships are generally positive, and the Board acknowledges the work done by staff in very challenging circumstances last year.
The Brook House IMB Chair, Mary Molyneux, said:
“While we consider that men detained in Brook House are generally treated humanely, the impact of the Home Office’s unusually compressed charter flight programme on an especially vulnerable population led to unprecedented levels of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts in the last five months of 2020. Our concerns were such that we wrote to the Home Office minister about them in October. These flights stopped in December.”