A silhouette of a person in front of a sunset.

The first public inquiry into immigration detention in the UK, released today, found evidence that a gay man from Morocco had received verbal homophobic abuse from staff while held in immigration detention.

The man told the Inquiry that “he did not feel detention was an environment where it was safe to be open about his sexuality” and that “he believed staff were hostile towards gay people”. The report details an incident where a member of staff at the Brook House immigration removal centre told him that he needed to change his clothes “because [he] looked gay” in front of other people in detention, which effectively outed him and caused him to feel unsafe in detention. The report found that the remark was “probably made with the express intention of humiliating” him, and that the officer was likely to know “that his specific choice of words could have placed [the gay man] at risk of harm”.

“These findings show, once again, how dangerous immigration detention is for LGBTQI+ people”, said Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, and continued “LGBTQI+ people face high levels of harassment, abuse and violence from others who are detained or, as this Inquiry shows, even staff”. On top of that, facing abuse in detention can retraumatise LGBTQI+ people, as many will have fled persecution and are already trying to cope with experiences of trauma from their past.

The case of mistreatment detailed above is one among a total of 19 incidents of mistreatment that were found by the Brook House inquiry in just a five-month period between April and August 2017. The report also catalogued a deeply troubling list of issues at the centre, including a dysfunctional safeguarding system, excessive and inappropriate use of force and the use of racist and abusive language towards people detained.

Under the recently passed Illegal Migration Act, this government plans to increase the use of detention, which will put LGBTQI+ people seeking protection in even more dangerous situations.

Recent UNHCR report findings suggest that supporting people who might otherwise be detained to navigate the asylum and immigration system in the community instead is better for their mental health and wellbeing, costs less than detaining them, and does not affect compliance with Home Office directives.

“This government urgently needs to end the use of immigration detention and instead invest in tried and tested community-based approaches that do not carry the same human cost”, said Leila Zadeh.

Further findings about the report have been reported by The Guardian and The Independent.