The family unit was in the process of refurbishment and was designed to house up to eight families with children. These plans to hold children in the IRC sit uneasily with the government’s stated commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes. We were told two types of family might be held at Tinsley House: those detained from aircraft and awaiting a flight back to their home countries, and families judged unsuitable for the new ‘predeparture accommodation’ currently under construction nearby. We will return to inspect and report on both these family facilities once they open.
Activity provision had improved and most detainees had something to do to fill their time, including an increased amount of paid work. There were reasonable opportunities for those needing to learn English, but little for those who were already fluent. There was a good library and reasonable access to PE, although instructors were unqualified.
Preparation for release was very good, with an impressive welfare service and important support from the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group. Communication with the outside world was well facilitated with good visit facilities and access to phones, fax and the internet, although some legitimate internet sites were unnecessarily blocked. Support to prepare detainees for removal had begun to be developed. However, we identified an objectionable and distressing
practice of overseas escort staff taking additional detainees as ‘reserves’ to the airports for charter flights in case illness or appeal prevented a removal. This inhumane practice should cease.
Tinsley House had improved considerably since our previous visit, with more dedicated management attention and improvements in most key areas. Admittedly, at the time of the inspection the IRC held no single women or families with children whose treatment we have previously highlighted with great concern. Nevertheless, the improvements are to be warmly welcomed and staff and managers appropriately commended.