After guidance from Public Health England, Brook House IRC has been deemed as an outbreak centre of COVID-19
We fear this could be calamity starting to unfold – one which was entirely avoidable ; Medical Justice warned in March that IRCs are high risk for clusters of COVID-19, and that staff provide a conduit for infection to and from the community.
Serco, who runs Brook House, distributed a letter to detainees informing them that the IRC has been deemed an outbreak centre and to stay in their rooms due to the risk. Some of our clients did not understand the letter and it hadn’t been explained to them.
The letter says “new arrivals will be housed onto C & E wings that are at present not in isolation” – any staff moving between the various wings could pose an infection risk and any new admissions into any IRC would be utterly reckless. Clearly, the Home Office’s measures up to now regarding COVID-19 have not worked.
Our clinicians are worried about our clients in immigration detention who have COVID-19 co-morbidities, putting them at risk of severe illness if infected.
It is extremely concerning that at Brook House IRC ‘Rule 35’ reports to flag up particularly vulnerable detainees, such as those at risk of serious illness, to the Home Office have been suspended.
Having persisted in detaining torture and trafficking survivors at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre with all the known risks means the Home Office have knowingly endangered vulnerable people who came to this country to seek safety.
The rush to detain and remove 1,000 migrants who arrived on small boats across the Channel by 31st December may have exacerbated an already dire situation. The vast majority of these migrants are removed by chartered flights from Brook House IRC. Some of our clients there have been told their ‘removal directions’ have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As most wings at Brook House IRC are in isolation, and with just a few weeks to go, it is possible that the Home Secretary’s plan to remove 1,000 migrants in this way by 31st December lies in tatters. The financial costs may be considerable but ultimately detainees may pay the heaviest price with their health.
Since it was founded in 2005, Medical Justice has never before seen such high numbers of extremely vulnerable detainees being rushed so quickly through the process. The current need and ongoing risks are unprecedented.
The Home Office now urgently needs to do the right thing and release detainees as soon as is safe in accommodation in the community can be arranged – this does not include in army barracks.
The Guardian : Covid outbreak hits Gatwick immigration detention centre