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The physical design and environment

  1. The environment at Brook House was influenced by its physical design, facilities and other decisions made by the Home Office and G4S, all of which contributed to the harshness of the experience for detained people as well as staff. As one senior G4S staff member described it, “it was designed more like a prison and it felt like a prison”.1 As a result of its “small footprint … the facilities are rather cramped”.1 This was in part due to its design to hold detained people on a short-term basis. Concerns about poor conditions were identified in every inspection report since 2010 but problems remained, including a lack of ventilation and unscreened and unclean toilets. Despite improvement plans and a change in management of Brook House, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) has remained critical of the current environment under Serco. One senior Serco manager told the Inquiry that the building and the restrictions that went with it posed challenges for the delivery of a “human[e] regime”.2
  2. Whatever future plans the Government has regarding immigration detention, they should take account of what this Inquiry has found regarding the impact of the physical environment. In my view, the delivery of humane conditions is made significantly more difficult when the accommodation is inherently unsuitable for immigration detention.
  3. The Home Office’s decision in early 2017 to convert some cells from two-person to three-person cells (known as the Extra Beds Programme) was criticised by external sources, both before and after the changes were implemented, as well as by G4S staff. The programme resulted in overcrowding and had a significant adverse impact on welfare. Although it was discontinued in May 2018, capacity in the immigration estate should never again be increased by adding extra beds to cells designed for fewer occupants. I am therefore recommending a limit on the maximum number of detained people sharing each cell at Brook House.
Recommendation 3: Limit on cell sharing

The Home Office must ensure that a maximum of two detained people are accommodated in each cell at Brook House.
  1. The Detention Centre Rules 2001 provide that a comprehensive range of activities must be provided to meet “recreational and intellectual needs” and relieve “boredom”.3 While G4S’s internal policy reflected this requirement, the 2016 Independent Monitoring Board report identified a “noticeable shortage of space for activities” at Brook House.4 Similarly, in May to June 2022 HMIP found that the number of activity places was not sufficient to occupy the population of Brook House, with a number of the facilities too small. From the lack of space and other resources allocated, it appears that activities were not seen as important by the Home Office and G4S for detained people, who were only supposed to be accommodated at Brook House for very short periods of time. Such an impoverished regime is likely to have contributed to boredom and frustration.
  2. Computer and internet access at Brook House was also poor and did not meet Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet (the Internet DSO). Detained people (as well as some others working at or visiting immigration removal centres) are not permitted to have internet-enabled devices, such as smartphones, and so relied upon the computer and internet access provided at the centre. However, there were problems with computer and internet speeds, blocked websites and access to working computers. Some detained people told the Inquiry that internet access failed shortly before they or others were deported. Personal email accounts should not have been blocked, not least because, in some cases, it appears to have had the effect of reducing access to justice. Only certain categories of website (such as social networking, pornographic material, and extremist and radicalising material) should have been prohibited. I am therefore recommending that reasonable access to computers and the internet be provided, reflecting the requirements of the Internet DSO.
Recommendation 4: Ensuring computer and internet access

The Home Office and its contractors must ensure reasonable access to computers and the internet.

Contractors must comply in full with Detention Services Order 04/2016: Detainee Access to the Internet, in particular:

●  Computers and the internet provided for detained people’s use must be maintained and fixed, if broken, within a reasonable time period, in order to allow detained people to access the internet for a minimum of seven hours per day, seven days per week.
●  Websites containing personal internet-based email accounts must not be blocked, since this is not a prohibited category of website.
●  Websites facilitating the provision of legal advice and representation must not be blocked, as this is not a prohibited category of website.


  1. KEN000001_011-012 para 56[][]
  2. Steven Hewer 1 April 2022 87/3-7[]
  3. Detention Centre Rules 2001, Rule 17; CJS000680_005-006[]
  4. IMB000121_006 para 3.7[]