Gatwick Detention CentresThere are two immigration removal centres (IRCs) situated next to Gatwick Airport: Brook House and Tinsley House. Following expansion between 2016-17, the centres have capacity for almost 700 people.
Tinsley House, located on the perimeter of Gatwick Airport, opened in 1996. It was the first purpose built IRC in the UK. Since reopening following refurbishment in 2017, it has a capacity of 178 people at any one time, including a pre-departure accommodation unit with spaces for families. Families can be held for up to 72 hours before departure from the UK. In exceptional circumstances, and with ministerial authority, this can be extended for up to 1 week.
The private security firm G4S is contracted by the Home Office to run Tinsley House. They manage the day-to-day running of the centre but do not have any control over who is detained or for how long they stay in detention.
Many people are held in detention for relatively short periods at Tinsley House, particularly compared to Brook House, although some held there stay for much longer periods.
People detained are not allowed out of Tinsley House, and personal possessions within the Centre are restricted. People are allowed to visit daily in the communal visits room, and are advised to book ahead. For directions and visiting hours please click here. Under Government rules, removal centres have to provide some meaningful activity. Tinsley House has a library and exercise/sport facilities, optional English lessons and arts and crafts sessions, as well as the use of television and video. In reality, however, boredom and frustration often set in for longer-term detainees.
Tinsley House has a team of religious staff, who cater for the pastoral, spiritual and cultural needs of the detainee population. There are daily religious services and ministers from all faiths visit the centre. Many of the referrals we receive come from the G4S welfare team, from religious staff, or from other agencies. The IRC has a medical centre with limited mental health nursing provision. Accommodation is provided in small rooms of two to four people in each. Those detained are allowed freedom of movement around the centre during the daytime, but are locked into the accommodation corridors during the night.
Brook House opened in March 2009, and is located about half a mile from Tinsley House, on the south perimeter of Gatwick Airport. It has the capacity to hold 448 men, divided into four separate wings.
The centre is run on behalf of the Home Office by the private security firm G4S. .
A higher-security facility than Tinsley House, Brook House tends to hold a higher proportion of ex-foreign national prisoners who have arrived in detention directly from prison, and also sees a higher level of long-term detention than Tinsley.
The centre is built on the model of Colnbrook IRC, close to Heathrow Airport, which is equivalent to a category B prison. As such it is considerably different to Tinsley, with higher levels of security and more restrictions on movement.
The building is composed of four accommodation wings, with a central activities area, to which those detained have restricted access. The vast majority of detainees are held in two- or three-man cells. There is also a small seclusion unit with a few single cells, for detainees who are removed from general association, and another small unit to hold some detainees the night before their flight out of the UK.
Those detained are locked into their cells all night, and locked onto their wings at meal times. At other times, they can move freely in the central activities area, but they are not allowed onto the other wings. Meals are served on the wings, and there are a few facilities such as pool tables and computer games on each wing also. The central activities unit contains a library, computer rooms, gyms, religious prayer rooms and classrooms. There is also a visits room there, where social visitors, including GDWG volunteers, can meet up with detainees.
Visitors to Brook House must book a visit at least 24 hours in advance. For more information please click here or call 01293 566559. All visitors must take along photographic ID, and be prepared to be searched on entry. Property can be dropped off, as long as it does not exceed the total weight limits allowed for each detainee.
Other Detention Centres
At present, there are eight main detention centres in the UK, with around 3000 people detained at any one time. There are various security contractors who run the centres so, as a result, staff training, official visiting hours and security measures may vary across the detention estate.
It is common for detainees to be transferred around the various detention centres throughout their period of detention, and each centre has a visitors’ group similar to us. You can find the details of other visitors groups from the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID).