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Man subjected to homophobic abuse at immigration detention centre, damning report finds

A charity has called for an urgent end of the use of immigration detention centres.

By Alastair James

Immigration centre
The Brook House inquiry looked into instances of mistreatment at the immigration detention centre (Image: Pexels)

A public inquiry into an immigration detention site in the UK has unearthed instances where one detainee received homophobic abuse.

The Brook House Inquiry was ordered by the UK Government in 2019. It followed a BBC Panorama show which highlighted the behaviour of staff at Brook House near Gatwick. The report was published on Tuesday (19 September)

In the 711-page report, there are 19 instances of mistreatment found to have taken place between April and August 2017.

One of those involved a gay man from Morocco, identified in the report as D1538. The report gives the following background:

“He said that he had been subjected to severe physical abuse from his father as a child, and sexual and physical assaults by strangers. He said that he travelled to the UK in 2014 to escape this treatment.

“D1538 was detained in Brook House between June and July 2017. He told the Inquiry that he did not feel safe in detention as a gay man.”

“He was mocked by other detained people for days afterward as a result”

The inquiry heard that D1538 “did not feel detention was an environment where it was safe to be open about his sexuality.”

Force was found to have been used against the man, who was also “inappropriately segregated.” It details that the man was not offered adequate support after witnessing a cellmate self-harm.

In one incident from 3 June 2017 D1538 said he was denied access to a computer in an IT suite.

He was also pushed following a verbal altercation with officers, and said this made him feel defensive. Officers involved said D1538 was aggressive resulting in a “brief’ use of force.

“I do not think that there is credible evidence that the use of force against D1538 on 3 June 2017 was capable of amounting to mistreatment,” the report concluded.

Relating to another incident from 6 June 2017, the report concluded inappropriate force was used against D1538 when his head was held by an officer.

On 28 June 2017, D1538 was told to change his clothes by an officer “because [he] looked gay.” D1538 told the inquiry “he was mocked by other detained people for days afterward as a result.”

The above comment was found to have likely been made with “the express intention of humiliating D1538.” It was also commented that the “specific choice of words could have placed D1538 at risk of harm.”

“This government urgently needs to end the use of immigration detention”

Responding to the report Leila Zadeh, the Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, a charity that helps people seeing asylum, said: “These findings show, once again, how dangerous immigration detention is for LGBTQI+ people.

“LGBTQI+ people face high levels of harassment, abuse and violence from others who are detained or, as this Inquiry shows, even staff.

“This government urgently needs to end the use of immigration detention and instead invest in tried and tested community-based approaches that do not carry the same human cost.”

It’s feared that with the government’s recently passed Illegal Migration Bill, more LGBTQ people fleeing persecution will be put in dangerous situations given the planned increase in the use of detention.

The report makes a number of recommendations and calls for change in the system, including a 28-day limit on detention. It also called for better management from the Home Office on Brook House

A Home Office statement given to Attitude said “the abuse that took place at Brook House in 2017 was unacceptable.”

They also said “significant improvements” have already been made. This included strengthening safeguards, greater transparency, and improved oversight.

The statement then continued by saying the Home Office is learning the lessons “to ensure these events never happen again,” and is “carefully considering every recommendation.”