Nine G4S staff have been suspended from an immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport amid claims of abuse and assaults against detainees.
The security company confirmed the action on Friday as BBC Panorama is set to screen the results of an undercover sting at Brook House, which it claims shows officers “mocking, abusing and assaulting” people held there.
The broadcaster has reported that drug use is “rife” and that it has seen “widespread self-harm and attempted suicides” in the centre, but is yet to release a statement on its findings.
G4S said the staff had been suspended as a “precaution” pending further inquiries and that the company had yet to see the recorded evidence against its employees. The “relevant authorities” have been informed, a spokesperson said.
Jerry Petherick, managing director for custodial and detention services, said in a statement that there is “no place for the type of conduct described in the allegations anywhere in G4S”.
He added: “Such behaviour is not representative of the many G4S colleagues who do a great job, often in difficult and challenging circumstances, across the country.”
Petherick said until G4S was supplied with the recorded evidence it was “inappropriate for me to pre-judge the outcome of our investigation”.
“Once we have seen the evidence and concluded the investigation, I will ensure that we take the appropriate action. We continue to focus on the care and wellbeing of detainees at Brook House,” he said.
The BBC footage is said to have been filmed by a custody officer at the centre which holds almost 400 male asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and foreign national offenders facing deportation. It has capacity to hold up to 508.
Panorama has said it has seen “chaos, incompetence and abuse” at the centre, which it describes as a “toxic mix”.
It further claimed that overstayers are sharing rooms with foreign criminals who have completed their sentences and said some detainees had been held for “many months, even years”. That claim was evidenced in a report on the detention centre in March.
In a statement to HuffPost UK on Friday, the Home Office said: “We condemn any actions that put the safety or dignity of immigration removal centre detainees at risk.
“We are clear that all detainees should be treated with dignity and respect and we expect G4S to carry out a thorough investigation into these allegations and that all appropriate action be taken.”
Brook House was opened in 2009. A year later it was branded “fundamentally unsafe” and a further report in 2012 found there were still “significant concerns”.
The centre improved in 2013, but the most recent report from HM Chief of Prisons in March found that some detainees had been held for excessive periods due to “unreasonable delays in immigration decision making”, however, it noted, “overall, this was an encouraging inspection”.
The report by Peter Clarke noted the average stage at Brook House had increased “substantially” from 28 days to 48 days, but “surprisingly, there did not appear to have been any analysis or investigation as to why this had happened”. Four men had been held there for more than two years, it said.
It also recorded that most residential units closely resembled “the conditions found in prisons”, saying problems were “exacerbated by poor ventilation and unsatisfactory sanitary facilities”.