One of NoBorders | 12.04.2009 23:08 | Migration
"Though [short-term detention facilities] hold detainees only for short periods, they do so at a time of maximum anxiety and uncertainty, outside the public gaze." - HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers, August 2005
Like most reporting centres across the country, Communications House is provided with a so-called 'short-term holding facility', which consists of a secure room for holding people detained while signing on until they are taken into a detention centre proper. The room has no facilities to hold people overnight but this has happened in the past.
Like most other short-term detention facilities in the country (there are about 25 non-residential ones, located at ports and airports as well as reporting centres, and 4 residential ones, which can hold people for up to 7 days), Communications House is run on behalf of the UK Border Agency by Group 4 Securicor (G4S), which also runs Brook House, Tinsley House, Oakington and Dungavel detention centres.
The holding room is normally staffed between 9am and 5:30pm by up to four G4S 'detainee custody officers' (DCOs), or longer if an escort is awaited to remove detainees. There are usually three DCOs and a supervisor on duty but they share duties with other G4S staff at other short-term detention facilities in the London area (Communications House, Becket House in south London and City Airport in east London). There are at least two G4S detainee escort vans based at Communications House, which has a secure vehicle compound.
Most people detained in the holding room arrive from the adjoining reporting centre following their detention without warning whilst signing on. People can also be brought after they are snatched from their homes by immigration snatch squads, or 'arresting teams', based at Communications House and operating in the surrounding area (that is, carrying out dawn raids). Other detainees are occasionally held there briefly, for a 'comfort break' or change of vehicle, while being transferred from one detention centre to another or to a London court. On average, the short-term detention facility at Communications House sees five detainees a day.
The first time short-term detention facilities were exposed to independent scrutiny was in the summer of 2004, when an inspection programme for these centre was started by the Chief Inspector of Prisons. The first set of reports ( http://inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspect_reports/STHF-reports/2004_STHFsx4.pdf), which covered Communications House, Lunar House (Croydon), Electric House (Croydon) and Dallas Court (Manchester), found that "there is little external supervision or regular monitoring of these centres." Not much has changed since. The "systemic deficiencies" common to most, if not all, of these centres have become all too familiar: prolonged detention (due to over-crowdedness in 'normal' detention centres) despite the facilities' not being fit for holding people overnight; use of force and segregation; lack of information and healthcare; inadequate facilities; untrained or inadequate staff (especially in dealing with children and self-harm); women and children being kept in the same room as single men and so on and so forth. The latest report on Communications House can be found at
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