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Challenges for the future

  1. While Ms Molyneux noted a number of ongoing issues with Serco – including the fairness of the complaints system – her general impression was that Serco was aware of, and open to discussing, ongoing challenges such as the increasing population and pressures caused by the charter flights programme.1 Her primary concerns related to healthcare and Rule 35 assessments, as well as a number of other matters within the Home Office’s control, such as the “inhumane” treatment of detained people in late 2020, the Adults at Risk and Home Office Detention Gatekeeper policies, detained people’s inability to see caseworkers and the length of detention of some “who appear to be stuck in the system”.2 The 2021 IMB report concluded that Serco had “met expectations of providing a respectful, caring environment (for a detention centre)”, generally focusing on welfare. Despite these efforts, it also concluded that Brook House was “not a safe or appropriate environment for the few men who have arrived in 2021 with severe mental health issues or have significantly deteriorated while in detention”, referring to the failure of the Home Office Detention Gatekeeper system in such cases.3
  2. The efficacy of external oversight is undermined by the Home Office’s failure to act on serious issues and concerns – such as those frequently raised by the IMB – in relation to safeguarding vulnerable detained people and the 2020 charter flights programme discussed above. During the relevant period, there was an inappropriate reliance by the Home Office and G4S on the fact that the Brook House IMB and HMIP did not identify abuse. I find that the Home Office’s engagement with many of the concerns that were properly raised by the oversight bodies has been inadequate.
  3. The Home Office attempted to explain its failures to implement recommendations by oversight bodies by referring to the “complex” nature of immigration detention and the “polarised and entrenched” debate around migration.4 These are inadequate excuses. Many of the issues repeatedly raised not only by the IMB and HMIP but also in numerous reports by Mr Stephen Shaw (a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman), the Home Affairs Select Committee and other experienced bodies concern failures by the Home Office to adhere to its own rules to protect the vulnerable and to guard against breaches of human rights legislation. It was and remains completely inappropriate to place significant reliance on either a small group of IMB volunteers or very infrequent inspection visits by HMIP, particularly where some fundamental concerns, when raised, go unheeded. Moreover, it is simply not credible to suggest that complexity or polarised public opinion is an explanation for failures on these fronts where basic issues of human rights and welfare are at issue.


  1. Mary Molyneux 25 March 2022 162/5-8, 168/3-169/21[]
  2. Mary Molyneux 25 March 2022 162/5-8, 168/15-169/10[]
  3. Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Board at Gatwick IRC: For Reporting Year 1 January– 31 December 2021, IMB, June 2022, para 3.3. The Home Office Detention Gatekeeper is an official who makes decisions about whether to detain an individual (CJS000731_007 para 11[]
  4. HOM0332165_061 para 196; Philip Riley 4 April 2022 104/23-105/17, 128/1[]