The Brook House Immigration Detention Centre is one of the most notorious detention centers in the UK.
The Brook House Immigration Detention Centre is one of the most notorious detention centers in the UK.

The United Kingdom detains tens of thousands of people in immigration detention centers every year. Some believe that the situation is so destitute that all centers should be closed.

The UK hosts the highest number of immigrants in detention centers in Europe. There was a peak number of more than 3,500 people who were held in immigration detention facilities in September 2015, but that has since fallen to less than 3,000 at any given time, according to The Migration Observatory at The University of Oxford. About 30,000 people are detained and held at the centers each year. 

Immigration detention centers in the UK are used primarily to house asylum seekers whose applications are still being processed, and people whose asylum requests have been denied while they are awaiting deportation. 

Accusations of abuse and violence

The two most notorious immigration detention centers in the UK are Brook House near London's Gatwick Airport and Yarl's Wood in Bedford. Both have seen numerous accusations of abuse and violence.

Detainees have reported horrid conditions at the Yarl's Wood. A recent hunger strike by 120 women at the facility in February has again raised public attention and stirred criticism about the living conditions at detention centers. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott met with hunger strikers and said she was misled by authorities and security services at the detention centers that said there wasn't a hunger strike. 

A whistleblower at the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre secretly filmed what he saw inside the center in September 2017. The whistleblower recorded detainees threatening to attempt suicide, and guards committing acts of violence and abuse. The report led to the suspension of 10 staff members. Channel 4 investigated Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre and revealed similar problems there. 

Both the Brook House and Yarl's Wood detention facilities have also seen several cases of self-harm in recent years. A Freedom of Information Act report showed there were 84 incidents at Brook House and 74 at Yarl's Wood in 2013, almost as many as at the other 11 detention centers examined in the report. The Independent newspaper reported there was an average of one case of self-harm per day at UK immigration detention centers between January 2016 and August 2017.

Detainees were reportedly blocked from internet access to social media, non-government organizations (NGO) and certain media websites, including the BBC, for a time following the Channel 4 investigation. That is according to the Asylum Information Database.

Yarl's Wood reported the Chief Inspector of Prisons said there were "siginificant improvements" to the detention center after the inspector's visit to the center in 2017. There is an ongoing inquiry into Brook House.

Who goes to detention centers?

In a June 2017 report, The House of Commons stated detention, which does not have a set time limit in the UK, may be used under certain circumstances:

·       The person is likely to abscond (fail to return) if given temporary admission or release

·       There is insufficient reliable information to decide whether to grant temporary admission or release

·       The person's removal from the UK is imminent

·       Detention is needed whilst alternative arrangements are made for the person's care

·       Release is not considered conducive to the public good

Growing concern

Kate Osamor, a member of parliament (MP) from Edmonton, visited Yarl's Wood undercover in 2017 and met a detainee who she said deserved to stay in the country after he was tortured in west Africa. After Osamor's visit, he was deported to his country of origin, where he told Osamor he was tortured once more. The MP said cases such as this detainee's demands a fresh look at how detainees in the detention centers should be treated.

The British Medical Association (BMA) went one step further and called for an end to the immigration detention centers in December 2017. The BMA said the detention centers should be replaced with centers with more humane living conditions.


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