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Muslims win court fight over prayers in ‘smelly’ immigration removal centre cell

The two men could get damages after a judge said their ability to pray in a clean area at specified times was hampered by the night lock-in regime.

Two Muslims who complained about dirty and “smelly” conditions in an immigration removal centre cell have won a High Court discrimination fight with Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

A judge decided the men’s ability to say prayers at specified times in a clean area had been hampered when they were locked in 12 metre-square cells with other detainees between 9pm and 8am at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport.

Mr Justice Holman concluded that their human right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been infringed without justification.

He heard that Mohammad Hussein, who is in his 20s and comes from Ethiopia, and Muhammad Rahman, who is in his 30s and comes from Bangladesh, had now left Brook House after being detained there for spells during 2017.

The judge had analysed the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London and delivered a ruling on Thursday.

Lawyers representing the men, who were detained after asylum claims were rejected by immigration officials, said damages would be considered at a later date.

They said the ruling would have implications for other detainees.

Lawyers representing Home Office Ministers had contested the men’s claims.

They told the judge they would consider whether to try to mount an appeal.

The men said their religion required them to say prayers at certain times – including dawn and sunset.

They also said they needed a clean area in which to pray.

But they said they could not get to a prayer room at the centre when they were locked in a cell.

They said a “smelly, dirty” cell toilet was upsetting when they prayed.

And they said other detainees in the cell distracted them.

Mr Justice Holman said the men were victims of “indirect discrimination” because of the particular prayer requirements of the Muslim religion.

He suggested that ministers had not considered how the regime at Brook House, which is privately run by G4S on behalf of the Home Office, would affect devout Muslims.

Mr Rahman had also complained about the smoky atmosphere caused when detainees lit cigarettes in cells.

The judge concluded that legislation barred smoking in immigration removal centre cells. He said regulations would have to be amended for smoking to be permitted.

A Home Office spokeswoman said after the ruling:  “We respect the rights of detainees to practise their religious faith.

“Immigration Removal Centres are equipped with mosques and multi-faith rooms for detainees to use for prayer, study and reflection.

“Communal prayers are available in all centres as well as facilities for prayer in the detainees’ rooms, such as access to prayer mats.”

“We will consider today’s judgment carefully.”

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