Harmondsworth, Europe’s largest immigration detention centre is in a terrible state.
An unannounced inspection at the men-only Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Heathrow discovered that the facility was not only “dirty and rundown” but also had many toilets and showers “in a seriously insanitary condition”.
An inspection at the centre was held between 7th and 18th September 2015. It found out that the facility had many overcrowded and poorly ventilated rooms.
“Although an extensive programme of refurbishment was underway, the centre should never have been allowed to reach this state,” Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons says.
Harmondsworth IRC holds up to 661 male detainees and is run for the Home Office by the Mitie Group.
Nearly half of the men held told inspectors they had felt depressed or suicidal on arrival but despite an improved reception environment, early days risk assessment processes were not good enough.
The report shows that 18 detainees had been held for more than a year. There was also a man who had spent five years in total at the centre having been detained on several separate occasions.
While some detainees were segregated for too long, the inspectors were not assured that this serious measure was always justified.
Inspectors found out that there was little positive engagement between staff and detainees.
Despite some improvements in access to work, training and education, movements were still too restricted, which affected detainees’ ability to reach the available resources.
Inspectors however said they were pleased to find that the use of force was not high, and it was subject to good governance.
The facility’s last inspection was in August 2013 when it was run by the GEO Group.
Mr Clarke said: “While the state of drift that we described in our last report has been arrested and the direction of travel is now positive, it is unacceptable that conditions were allowed to decline so much towards the end of the last contract. The Home Office and its contractors have a responsibility to ensure this does not happen again.
“Following the inspection, we were informed by the Home Office that lessons had been learned and that a new set of principles were established to prevent a recurrence of this situation. We will assess the success of these measurements in due course.”