Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Inspectors hail immigration centre

An immigration centre once described as 'unacceptable' has been hailed for its improvements, according to a new report

An immigration removal centre which was once described as "wholly unacceptable" has made commendable improvements, a report has said.

The prisons inspectorate said detainees at Tinsley House, near Gatwick Airport, felt "safe" and relationships between those held and the staff were "generally good".

The last inspection saw the centre, which is run by security company G4S on behalf of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), criticised over the treatment of women and children, but the latest report said that "detainees generally reported feeling safe, and there was little bullying or self-harm" at the centre, which holds 124 people plus eight families, mostly those awaiting deportation.

A prisons inspectorate spokeswoman said the use of force was "low" and the detainees had good access to legal advice and UKBA staff.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: "Tinsley House had improved considerably since our previous visit, with more dedicated management attention and improvements in most key areas.

"At the time of the inspection the immigration removal centre held no single women or families with children whose treatment we have previously highlighted with great concern. The improvements are to be warmly welcomed and staff and managers appropriately commended."

However, the report condemned an "objectionable and distressing practice" used which sees "reserve" detainees taken to the airport just in case others cannot board flights for deportation.

The authors of the report also raised concerns over the family unit at the centre which can house up to eight families with children. A spokesman for the inspectorate said: "These plans to hold children sit uneasily with the Government's commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes and inspectors will return to inspect and report on these once they open."

A UKBA spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that the HMCIP recognises the improvements that have been made at Tinsley House over the past year and we are determined to build on these.

"When someone has no right to be in the country we would prefer that they left voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure."

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