Colnbrook IRC: Vulnerable men held in ‘degrading’ conditions

Vulnerable men at Colnbrook immigration removal centre are held in an “oppressive and degrading” conditions, according to a prisons inspectorate report published today.

Inspectors found weaknesses in the management of detainees at risk of suicide and self harm and described the unit for vulnerable people as “not fit for purpose” at the centre, based at Heathrow airport.

Use of force had also increased, while drugs remained a serious security issue despite improvements in treatment services, the probe between 17-21 November 2008 found.


Bullying was also a “significant problem” and allegations including bullying by staff were inadequately investigated, the inspection report revealed.

Many individuals had been at the high-security centre for months or even years and were frustrated at the lack of progress of their cases. Only just over half had legal representatives.

Inspectors also said the adjoining short-term holding centre, holding both men and women, had failed to improve.

Struggling to cope

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said: “Staff and managers readily admitted that Colnbrook was struggling to cope. It is to be hoped that the opening of new accommodation elsewhere in the estate will relieve some of the excessive pressure under which the centre now operates.”

Colnbrook IRC is run by Serco and holds up to 355 detainees.


Dave Woods, head of criminality and detention at the UK Border Agency said there had been “significant” improvements in the six months since the inspection.

“We take the findings of independent monitors very seriously and work hard to implement their recommendations. We will draw up an action plan responding to this report to keep improving the centre,” he added.

More information

Prisons inspectorate

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