A detention centre a few hundreds metres away from Heathrow Airport , has been slammed as 'among the worst in the detention estate'
Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, in West Drayton , is in a 'seriously insanitary condition and many rooms were overcrowded and poorly ventilated' according to a report by Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke.
The report, released on Tuesday, March 1, after an unannounced inspection in September, shows matters have 'deteriorated' since a previous inspection in August 2013.
The removal centre has changed hands since the last inspection, from the GEO Group to Care and Custody, a division of the Mitie Group for the Home Office.
The report says: “The vulnerability of the detainee population appeared to have increased since the last inspection. In our survey, 80% of men said that they had had problems on arrival and nearly half said they had felt depressed or suicidal.”
Concerns raised by inspectors in 2013 have not been rectified, after fears that an uncertain future with contracts would have a negative effect on detainees.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We take the welfare of our detainees extremely seriously and this report raises a number of important issues, which we are currently addressing.
“Our contractor is refurbishing the accommodation, which includes structural changes, better cleaning standards and improvements to the healthcare suite and enhanced care unit.
"We are pleased that the inspector noted that progress had been made since the last report and remain committed to delivering continuous improvements at the centre.
“Last year, the Home Secretary commissioned the Stephen Shaw review which was published in January, to examine the welfare of those held in removal centres.
"We are now working on significant reforms in relation to the mental health of detainees, how the cases of those “at risk” are handled, and ensuring there is a stronger focus on removal so that people spend the minimum amount of time in detention before they leave the country.”
Time for a time limit
Home Office rules state detention in immigration centres should be used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary, but some detainees were held for over a year, with one man held for five years.
There has been support locally by campaigners hoping for a national time limit on detention in centres such as Harmondsworth IRC.
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein , of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, supports the 'Time For A Time Limit' campaign, which highlights the plight of those held in immigration centres and presses for a maximum time limit of 28 days’ detention.
He said: “In terms of the moral wellbeing of our own country, the treatment of those most vulnerable in society is a barometer.
“Through the Hillingdon Interfaith Network there are regular collections for items of clothing which are needed by detainees.
“The most important thing people can do is to campaign to limit detention.”