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It is just over six years since the BBC first aired the Panorama programme ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ on 4 September 2017. Filmed covertly at Brook House immigration removal centre between March and July 2017, it was shocking in the violence and distress it exposed.

This Inquiry was announced in November 2019, just over two years after that broadcast. I am conscious that the drawn-out process of a public inquiry can expose raw emotions, and that recalling difficult experiences may be retraumatising for those involved. I therefore wish to begin by expressing my gratitude to all those who provided witness statements to the Inquiry, and who gave evidence in person at the hearings. This will not have been an easy process for many, and for some this Report will not be easy to read.

I particularly want to thank the crisis support charity Hestia, for the support that it provided to witnesses throughout the course of this Inquiry.

This is an important report, reflecting as it does on the events at Brook House in 2017, what has changed and, most importantly of all, what further change is still needed to ensure that such events are not repeated. I have reflected carefully on the evidence, submissions and advice I have received. I have tried at all times to weigh carefully the evidence before me and conduct this Inquiry in a fair and open manner.

When I was commissioned to conduct this Inquiry, the use of immigration detention was falling and a number of immigration removal centres had been closed. The government has made clear its intention to expand the use of immigration detention. This Inquiry has not considered – and I do not comment on – government policy or related legislative changes, but any expansion or other change should be considered in the context of learning lessons from past failures. My Report comes as the latest in a long line of reports and investigations into immigration detention – many, with depressing regularity, making broadly similar findings and recommendations. It has long since been time to act on recommendations, rather than simply keep repeating them.

This is a lengthy report – and it is accompanied by important footage that should be viewed alongside it – but that should not detract from the need for those to whom my recommendations are addressed to read it carefully.

Moreover, it should be read with an openness to engage with the recommendations and a ‘can do’ attitude. To give this Report less consideration than this would be a disservice to the Core Participants who have fought for this Inquiry, the witnesses who contributed to it and the wider public interest in the issues raised. It should therefore be seen not as the end product of an inquiry but rather the start of a new and more humane approach to the treatment of those in detention.

Chairs are the figureheads of public inquiries but behind them is a team enabling and supporting them and without whom this would have been a lengthier and more difficult task. I therefore wish to end by expressing my thanks to the Inquiry team, who have provided me with support and advice throughout. In particular, I wish to thank: Brian Altman KC, Counsel to the Inquiry; Ellis Pinnell and Alex Momcilovic, Solicitors to the Inquiry; and the wider legal team for their hard work and advice. I also wish to thank the Inquiry secretariat, led by Secretary to the Inquiry Sam Ashby, for their contribution behind the scenes. They are a small group, but they have been diligent in their work throughout this Inquiry and in enabling me to deliver this Report.

Kate Eves

Chair of the Brook House Inquiry September 2023