Report on an announced inspection of Tinsley House IRC
7 – 11 February 2011 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Report compiled May 2011, published Tuesday 25th July 2011
However inspectors were concerned to see that:
- there was an objectionable and distressing practice, which should cease, of overseas escort staff taking additional detainees as 'reserves' to the airports for charter flights in case illness or appeal prevented a removal. This inhumane practice should cease.
- too many detainees were unnecessarily transferred late at night and risk assessments on reception needed to be more comprehensive;
- the separation cell was inadequate and there had been some inappropriate use of strip clothing;
- too little was done to engage with detainees who did not speak English;
- mental health provision required further development; and
- some legitimate internet sites were unnecessarily blocked
- overall inspectors have made 88 recommendations to improve the facility
The family unit at Tinsley House was being refurbished to house up to eight families with children. 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.
Introduction from the report
Tinsley House immigration removal centre (IRC) at Gatwick airport, run by G4S, holds men, women and children, although no women were being held at the time of this visit and the family accommodation was being refurbished. Our last inspection report was a critical one and we suggested that, with the opening of the adjacent, much larger and even more challenging Brook House IRC under the same management team, Tinsley House appeared to have slipped off their radar. On our return, for this full announced inspection, we were pleased to find considerable improvement.
Early days were managed satisfactorily, although too many detainees were unnecessarily transferred late at night and risk assessments on reception needed to be more comprehensive. Detainees generally reported feeling safe, there was little bullying or self-harm and safer community orderlies were an important innovation. Security was proportionate and use of force low, but the separation cell was inadequate and there had been some inappropriate use of strip clothing. Detainees had good access to legal advice and UKBA on-site staff. The centre was clean, with good access to showers, and much needed work was about to start on improving the ventilation. Staff-detainee relationships were generally good, although too little was done to engage with detainees who did not speak English. A very good diversity policy had been produced and work was beginning on its implementation. No women were currently held and we were told there were no plans to hold them in future. Faith services were much appreciated and most aspects of health care were satisfactory, although mental health provision required further development.
The family unit was in the process of refurbishment and was designed to house up to eight families with children. These plans to hold children in the IRC sit uneasily with the government's stated commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes. We were told two types of family might be held at Tinsley House: those detained from aircraft and awaiting a flight back to their home countries, and families judged unsuitable for the new 'predeparture accommodation' currently under construction nearby. We will return to inspect and report on both these family facilities once they open.
Activity provision had improved and most detainees had something to do to fill their time, including an increased amount of paid work. There were reasonable opportunities for those needing to learn English, but little for those who were already fluent. There was a good library and reasonable access to PE, although instructors were unqualified.
Preparation for release was very good, with an impressive welfare service and important from the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group. Communication with the outside world was well facilitated with good visit facilities and access to phones, fax and the internet, although some legitimate internet sites were unnecessarily blocked. Support to prepare detainees for removal had begun to be developed. However, we identified an objectionable and distressing practice of overseas escort staff taking additional detainees as 'reserves' to the airports for charter flights in case illness or appeal prevented a removal. This inhumane practice should cease.
Tinsley House had improved considerably since our previous visit, with more dedicated management attention and improvements in most key areas. Admittedly, at the time of the inspection the IRC held no single women or families with children whose treatment we have previously highlighted with great concern. Nevertheless, the improvements are to be warmly welcomed and staff and managers appropriately commended.
Nick Hardwick May 2011
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons