UK inquiry finds migrants awaiting deportation are kept ‘in prison-like’ conditions at a detention center

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LONDON (AP) — A British inquiry reported Tuesday that migrants awaiting deportation suffered physical and verbal abuse at a government-run detention center, and recommended that no one be kept in such “prison-like” conditions for more than 28 days.

Inquiry chairwoman Kate Eves said migrants suffered “shocking treatment” at the Brook House Immigration Removal Center near Gatwick Airport, south of London.

Eves said the facility had a “toxic” staff culture, and migrants faced racist and derogatory language, dehumanizing comments and the inappropriate use of force.

“The most serious of these incidents involved the application of pressure to a detained man’s neck while he was in extreme distress,” her report said.

“If you are going to detain people in immigration removal centers, you have to do so humanely,” Eves said.

READ MORE: UK, France mend ties, leaders agree to prevent migrants from crossing English Channel

Noting that the government had ignored previous calls for reform, she urged officials to heed her recommendations, especially the “incredibly important” 28-day detention limit.

The inquiry was launched in 2019, two years after a BBC documentary broadcast undercover footage of alleged abuse towards detainees at Brook House.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the government minister in charge of immigration, acknowledged there had been “failings in both oversight and governance to protect the welfare of detained individuals.”

She said the government would “carefully consider the findings” of the report.

Britain’s Conservative government has adopted an increasingly punitive approach to people who arrive in the U.K. by unauthorized means such as small boats across the English Channel. It has passed a law calling for small-boat migrants to be detained and then deported permanently to their home nation or third countries. The only third country that has agreed to take them is Rwanda, and that plan is being challenged in the U.K. courts.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the inquiry had “shown clearly that the Home Office is not able to provide basic levels of care and humanity for vulnerable people in detention.”

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