The scale of Britain’s largely privatised deportation industry has mushroomed as the Home Office responds to political pressure for the faster removal of failed asylum-seekers and people overstaying their visas.
There are 11 immigration removal centres across the country with space for around 3,000 detainees. Most are operated by private security companies such as G4S, GEO Ltd or Serco; several are managed by the Prison Service.
G4S – formerly known as Group 4 Securicor – runs Dungavel in Scotland, Oakington near Cambridge, Brook House and Tinsley House, both on the perimeter of Gatwick Airport, on behalf of the UK Border Agency. Oakington is due to close next month.
The company, which claims to be the second largest private employer in the world with 595,000 staff, is also the main contractor providing services to escort those removed from the UK on repatriation flights overseas.
Additionally, G4S runs the UK Border Agency’s Transport PLUS service, which shuttles asylum-seekers to and from their accommodation and key sites in the UK.
Failed asylum-seekers and deported visa overstayers are either put on scheduled commercial flights or gathered up in periodic round-ups for mass deportations on specially chartered flights. They are always accompanied by private security guards.
There are usually at least twice as many security guards as deportees. The Home Office insists that use of force is a “matter of last resort” if someone becomes disruptive or refuses to comply, or to prevent deportees from harming themselves. Handcuffs and, in exceptional cases, leg restraints can be used.