After a BBC Panorama program exposed how brutally detained immigrants at the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) were treated and the suspension of nine G4S guards as a result, a former detainee at the center has come forward to recount the horrors he witnessed in the facility.
The centre is located on the grounds of Gatwick Airport, Crawley, West Sussex, and is a privately managed detention center, operated by G4S on behalf of the U.K. government.
Michael (last name withheld due to safety purposes) revealed that he witnessed the brutality by the staff when he was held at the center between September and December 2014.
Currently, a member of Freed Voices, a group of experts campaigning for detention reform in the U.K., Michael recalled instances when prescribed medications were forcibly snatched away from the detainees, leaving them vulnerable to a number of medical conditions.
“I saw people come into the centre with prescribed mental health medication, and have staff take it off them and chuck it in the bin,” he told the Independent. “I remember this guy had had his medication taken away from him and put in the bin at reception, and then he went to healthcare to try get medication and they said they couldn’t prescribe it.”
When the man started to display disruptive behavior as a result of this, Michael said no one tried to figure out why he was reacting that way.
“Instead the guards locked him up in an isolated cell and chose to document his worsening behavior from a distance. You are in a no-win situation in there, whatever you do,” Michael said.
The policy was followed even when it came to providing healthcare to the detainees, especially those suffering from mental health issues.
“If, for example, someone said they were sick and went to healthcare, healthcare often wouldn’t want to look after these people or assess them properly, because if they do that they are admitting that these people shouldn’t be in detention,” Michael said.
The staff also did not care if the detainees were properly fed.
Michael gave an example of a man who wanted to take a bath after working in the kitchen for the whole day before having his dinner. Although the staff promised to save some food for him, when he came back from the shower there was none left for him. When asked for an explanation, the staff simply replied: “If you f—– off back to your country you wouldn’t be in here.”
The guy later went on to cut himself with a razor in frustration in full view of the staff, who just stood there and laughed.
“I don’t like to use the word racism, but what else is it?” Michael said. “Can you imagine a British person – even a British prisoner – being treated like this? Nobody cares.”
Staff members replying back in derogatory terms or swear words were a norm in the facility, the former detainee recalled. “The answer you get is ‘why don’t you f— of [sic] to your country and stop harassing us’. That was just the norm. You hear things like that every day in Brook House,” he said.
Following the BBC documentary, which showed G4S guards choking, mocking and abusing detainees, activists from organizations such as the Kent Anti-Racism Network, Brighton Against Detention, SOAS Detainee Support and the Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary called for all detention centers in the U.K. to be shut down and the G4S to be banned from being hired by government facilities, the Guardian reported.
Managing Director for G4S Custodial & Detention Services in the U.K., Jerry Petherick, said: “The behavior shown in the program is completely unacceptable and not representative of the many G4S colleagues who do a great job, often in difficult and challenging circumstances, across the country… We continue to focus on the care and wellbeing of detainees at Brook House.”
The scandal comes on the heel of President Donald Trump deciding to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Tuesday, which temporarily sheltered children of immigrants from deportation.