Medical Justice exposes Home Office dangerous Use of Force policy ignores Brook House Inquiry recommendations

The BBC has filmed inside aircraft fuselages in a massive hangar where the Home Office is training 800 staff on forcing people into deportation flights to Rwanda. The BBC filmed guards pretending to escort a passive person onto a plane. This is far from the reality of what took place on the (later aborted) 2022 flight to Rwanda; evidence shows how guards forced a suicidal detained person into a waist restraint belt and physically attached them to a seat. Medical Justice’s clients targeted and detained for that 2022 flight included a child, someone who attempted suicide twice, and someone who was likely to have a psychotic disorder and lacked mental capacity.

Watch the BBC TV News footage below

Credit: BBC Breakfast

Read BBC online: “Inside the secret government Rwanda training base”

On May 1st, just before the local elections, the Home Office paraded on social media footage of rounding up and detaining asylum seekers for deportation to Rwanda. Medical Justice has been assisting 36 of them; men and women from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, and Eritrea.  Even though it’s been announced that there will be no flight to Rwanda before the general election – and likely ever – many remain detained. We demand their immediate release – to not do so, given the medical evidence of abuse in detention, means the harm the government is inflicting is basically premeditated.

This month the Home Office ‘consulted’ Medical Justice on its new Use of Force policy. The policy is as dangerous as ever. It ignores recommendations of the recent Brook House Inquiry into mistreatment of detained people in an immigration removal centre (IRC), finding wonton inhuman and degrading treatment; 19 instances in just one IRC in just 5 months.

The public inquiry found extensive, unnecessary, excessive Use of Force – findings included;

  • A toxic culture and normalisation of the infliction of pain, suffering and humiliation of detained people
  • Staff using force to provoke and punish detained people
  • Unauthorised techniques, including one used by guards who unlawfully killed a detained man on a deportation flight
  • Riot gear used routinely, including when detained people offered little threat of violence
  • Force used against people who were physically and/or mentally unwell and against naked people being dragged out of their cell to be taken to a flight
  • Many detained people who have deteriorated in detention wrongly treated as non-compliant and disruptive, taken to segregation – often by force – as a means to manage distress, self-harm and mental illness symptoms
  • IRC healthcare staff often facilitated use of force by pre-authorising it and not intervening when it became dangerous
  • Evidence of pervasive, derogatory and violent verbal abuse and racism revealed an underlying lack of any empathy, even when people were at their most distressed and vulnerable – even in life-threatening situations
  • Mistreatment in IRCs is ongoing, evidenced in our report “If he dies, he dies”, a callous mantra amongst guards

The Home Office’s new Use of Force policy does not consider the impact of force on those with mental illness at all, ignoring a key recommendation of the Inquiry – established by the Home Secretary – to undertake a review on the use of force on the mentally ill. The policy allows for the use of pain-inducing techniques when these are contraindicated for those with mental illness and, in particular, those who lack mental capacity. Most clients targeted for Rwanda deportation in 2022 that Medical Justice assessed were torture survivors for whom use of force can be experienced as a terrifying re-enactment of past abuse.

The Inquiry found that wholly dysfunctional clinical safeguards were likely to have led to vulnerable detained people deteriorating in their mental and physical health, putting them at risk of mistreatment. Its recommendations included strengthening safeguards, yet the Home Office has just weakened its ‘Adults at Risk’ policy which will allow more vulnerable people to be held in detention, just as the dangerous Use of Force training is rolled out to 800 staff, and at a time when the Illegal Migration Action calls for a massive expansion of immigration detention.


1. The reality of the brutality of the 2022 Rwanda flight – Liberty Investigates reported extracts from official Use of Force forms; one man was bleeding and would not stop cutting himself until officers seized his arms, that he was treated by a nurse before being handed over to guards to take him by force to the plane. After boarding, another man whose wrists, arms, and head were restrained was screaming, hitting his head against the seat in front – after he started biting his tongue, officers applied a “mandibular angle” pain technique to make him release it. The Independent Monitoring Board reported that one man offering no physical resistance was put in a waist restraint belt (WRB). Two men in WRBs started to scream out their fear and distress, each trying to hurl his torso and head backwards and forwards. Each was seated with an escort on either side, his arms tightly held, his head controlled by an escort facing him. The legs of one had been ‘secured’.

2. “Who’s Paying The Price” report evidences vulnerability of 51 clients targeted for Rwanda in 2022 – Out of 17 people Medical Justice doctors conducted clinical assessments for, 14 had evidence of torture histories and 6 of trafficking. 15 had a diagnosis or symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One required urgent investigations regarding a brain tumour. 11 people had suicidal thoughts, including one who attempted suicide twice.