Big Breakfast 8th April 2017
The latest Big Breakfast at the Parish Hub saw us all, not only enjoy another wonderful cooked fare, but also
provided an opportunity to hear from Felicity Dick of the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group.
Felicity was a founding member of this charity and has been a volunteer visitor, Chair and Trustee of the Group.
In actual fact the correct title for a Detainee Centre is “ Immigration Removal Centre” and there are at any time
10 or so operating around the UK with 2 in our immediate vicinity, Tinsley House and Brook House. Circa 32,500
people pass through the facilities in any year, an increase of 20% since only 2011. Brook House holds 500 men
and Tinsley House up to 200 individuals including some families.
Detainees represent people from 80 different countries, the main places of origin being Nigeria, Pakistan, India,
Poland and Afghanistan. The number of Europeans involved has recently doubled.
The UK is the only European country to practice indefinite detention, meaning detainees have no idea upon
arrest how long they may be held before release or return to their country of origin. In rough terms a half of
detainees are subsequently released back into the UK.
The cost of detention is estimated at £36,000 per detainee per year. £15 million is paid out in compensation for
unfair detention by the Home Office each year, it is they who control oversight of the detention process, with day
to day management of the centres fulfilled by G4S, the large private security and services company.
The GDWG visitors are all volunteers, each is allocated one detainee to provide trusted individual support and
to show respect and concern for the detainee and their circumstances. Practical help is shown not only by giving
respect but also in the provision of clothes, phone top ups and referral advice. A detainee is not allowed to work
and receives only 71p per day to spend in the small shop within the facility. Detainees are able to move around
the centres during the day but are locked away at night. There are limited pastimes available. Often detainees
are arrested as they go to a report meeting and therefore have no other possessions with them other than the
clothes they are wearing. They frequently have no money to contact friends and family or to obtain legal support.
We learnt what a difficult role it is to be a visitor in the face of frustrated, often depressed and sometimes
mentally ill people.
This was a thought provoking talk which made all of us value our own positions and security of Copthorne Village
life. If you want to know more about the work of GDWG go to their site at www.gdwg.org.uk or email them on
They run several awareness events including a “Walk with Us “initiative, a great way to stay healthy too.
Likewise they operate an annual “Refugee Tales“ walk . This year the walk starts in Runnymede and finishes at
Westminster on July 5th.The event sees famous writers take refugees’ stories and turn them into narrative to be
read by well known national actors each evening. Brochures are available at the back of church and in the Parish
Hub entrance hall.
THE NEXT BIG BREAKFAST IS ON THE 15TH JULY – Looking ahead, for those of you with a keen
political eye you may have noticed that we are within the recommendations for a constituency boundary change
at the next General Election. If enacted we will move from Horsham into Crawley for voting purposes. It is
therefore appropriate that Henry Smith M.P. has agreed to be the speaker at our next Big Breakfast on 15th July.
With Brexit well in flight and with so many other matters for discussion this is a superb opportunity to engage with
an elected official of her Majesty’s government. Tickets can be pre-booked via the Parish Office or nearer the
time by signing up at the back of church.