Private security firm G4S has announced it will no longer run Brook House removal centre, in a move that will bring an end the company’s controversial involvement in the immigration and asylum sector.
The scandal-hit company said it would not bid to renew the contract to run Brook House or Tinsley House – a smaller neighbouring removal centre – when it expires next May because it wishes to shift its focus onto running prisons.
The decision comes after Boris Johnson pledged to dramatically expand the prison sector if he remains in power, saying he would spend £2.5bn on 10,000 new jail places.
Campaigners welcomed the move but said it “should have happened a long time ago”, describing G4S’s involvement in immigration detention as a “disaster for people in detention and the public purse”.
G4S, which has managed Brook House since it opened in 2009, was subjected to a storm of criticism in 2017 when undercover footage showing alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers was aired on the BBC’s Panorama programme.
The firm meanwhile raked in more than £14m from running the centre over six years, making gross annual profits of up to 20 per cent from running the immigration detention facility between 2012 and 2018, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
Serco, another private firm that has come under fire for its management of immigration operations, is reported to be a front runner to take over.
Rudy Schulkind, research and policy coordinator at Bail for Immigration Detainees, said the charity welcomed the move but that it “should have happened a long time ago”, and warned that the fundamental issues with immigration detention still remained – particularly if Serco is likely to take over the contract.
“A disaster for people in detention and the public purse, G4S’s reward for its handling of the contract was to have it extended for two years in 2018, and for the government to fiercely resist a public inquiry into abuse carried out by its officers,” he added.
“But the fact that Serco is the front runner to take over is cause for serious concern. It has been mired in allegations of sexual abuse by officers ever since it took over running Yarl’s Wood detention centre in 2007.
“People in immigration detention are socially and geographically isolated and stripped of basic rights, and vulnerable to abuse by private contractors. We will not be celebrating until Brook House and all other detention centres are shut down.”
The Home Office said it was in the procurement process and that current bidders had until October to submit their final bids, with the new contract holder to be awarded in February 2020.
A spokesperson for the company said this decision was made “to give greater focus to our custody and rehabilitation business, where we operate four of the highest-rated prisons in England and Wales”.
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