Kent priest in BBC documentary speaks of ‘shocking’ detention centre abuse

Panorama, Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets

A Kent priest is calling for an end to the indefinite detention of people in the immigration system after Panorama uncovered systematic abuse at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre.

Rev Nathan Ward worked for over 14 years as a manager for G4S, is an expert in the use of force, and has been a consultant to HM Prisons. He contributed to the Panorama documentary, which will air this evening at 9pm on BBC1. The film features covert footage recorded at Brook House showing officers "mocking, abusing and assaulting" people being held there.

Panorama says it has seen "widespread self-harm and attempted suicides" in the centre, and that drug use is "rife".

Rev Nathan Ward is a self-supporting priest in the parish of Holy Trinity South Chatham.

Speaking about the documentary, he said: “The abuse uncovered by the Panorama team - along with the wider failures of the immigration system - is shocking, even to those who understand this system. This isn’t a case of ‘a few rotten apples’. Instead it reveals only the tip of the iceberg – this demanding, specialised work cannot solely be the responsibility of £10-an-hour workers. It stands to reason that that we should now be asking what is happening in other detention centres up and down the country and – most importantly - what the Government should be doing about it.”

The UK is the only EU member state which does not set a legal limit on the length of immigration detention. Routinely people are not told when they will be detained or how long for. People might be detained just for a few weeks – or for months or years.

“I call on the Government today to bring an immediate end to indefinite detention setting an upper limit of 28 days,” added Nathan. “The judiciary should be required to authorise any detention longer than 72 hours and the Government should develop an immigration policy that has a de-emphasis on detention. This is not about immigration; it is about ending inhumane practices which are expensive and infective. The UK is a developed nation with high standards - we must demand better than this for our detention centres.”

Rev Nathan Ward was joined in this call by Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, who serves as Bishop to Prisons. Bishop James said: “Based on the news coverage so far around this programme it would seem that this documentary raises serious questions, not just of those who run our immigration detention centres, but more crucially about how we as a society treat people that we don’t know what to do with. Those featured in the documentary are human beings with friends, families, and personal stories. And yet the alleged treatment they have received can only be described as inhumane. This system fails not only those directly affected by it, but it fails us as a nation.”

Copyright 2015 © The Diocese of Rochester. Registered Office: St Nicholas’ Church, Boley Hill, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1SL. Registered Charity No. 249339 The Rochester Diocesan Society and Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No. 140656