Private companies that run detention centres in the UK


by Bill MacKeith

As of January 2005 there were 2,644 places in centres dedicated to imprisoning immigration detainees. Seven out of 10 principal immigration detention centres in the UK are run by private companies for profit under contract to the Home Office (Interior Ministry).

The private company running the largest number of centres in the UK is GSL (Global Solutions Limited). They run Oakington near Cambridge, Yarl's Wood near Bedford, Tinsley near Gatwick airport in Sussex, and Campsfield in near Oxford. GSL was sold by Group4 Falck to venture capitalists Engelfield Capital and Electra Partners Europe in May 2004.

Premier Detention Services (PDS) runs two centres: Dungavel in Ayrshire, Scotland and Colnbrook, the UK's newest detention centre, built on category B prison lines next to Harmondsworth centre outside London's Heathrow airport; PDS also runs the small Queen's Building centre within London's Heathrow airport. PDS is owned by Serco.

UK Detention Services (UKDS) runs Harmondsworth detention centre, by London's Heahtrow airoport. UKDS is owned by Belgian firm Sodexho. Sodexho ran the UK's voucher system (as opposed to Cash assistance) for refugees, which was dropped after a year of protests. Sodexho used to be into detention/prisons in the USA until a boycott campaign in college canteens forced them to pull out of that activity. Sodexho runs canteens in the UK also. (House of Lords debates Monday 17th May 2004)

(The remaining main detention centres, Dover, Haslar (Gosport/Portsmouth) and Lindholme (Yorkshire) which use old former prison buildings, are run under "detention centre rules" by the Home Office and are staffed by government prison guards.)

Transport of immigration detainees for profit

Wackenhut is a US private security/prisons company which in the UK runs the transport of detainees between places of detention, and between them and airports for deportation. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (UK) published a report, Harm on Removal: Excessive Force against Failed Asylum Seekers, in October. The report documents 14 cases in which excessive force was used against asylum seekers during the process of forcible removal from the UK.

Sale of GSL by Group4 Falck

The May 2004 sale by Danish company Group4 Falck of its detention prisons business GSL (Global Solutions Limited) - for £208 million to London-based venture capitalists Engelfield Capital and Electra Partners Europe - was a condition set by the European Union commissioner for competition for his approval of the £1.7 billion merger of Group4 Falck and another big "security business" company, Securicor. (Note: Only a few weeks earlier, the government said that Group4 Falck was negotiating the sale of GSL to "Bridgepoint Capital Ltd" - House of Lords debates Tuesday 4th May 2004)

Further background on Group4 Falck - Wackenhut - Securicor - GSL

The Danish security company Group 4 Falck AS sold its controlling stake in Wackenhut Corrections Corp. back to the company for $132 million on Thursday.

Copenhagen-based Group 4 Falck, the world's second-biggest security company, acquired the 57 percent stake last year when it bought Wackenhut Corrections' parent, Wackenhut Corp. of Palm Beach, Fla., for $495 million.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Wackenhut Corrections employs more than 11,000 people and operates some 60 correctional facilities in the United States, Britain, Australia and South Africa. Group 4 Falck spokesman Nels Petersen told The Associated Press the sale was part of the company's strategy of focusing on providing security services. "Our interest is in guarding and alarm services, not in running prisons and asylum centers," he said. Petersen said the proceeds of the sale would likely total $96 million after expenses and taxes and would be used to pay down debt. Shares of Group 4 Falck rose 5 percent to 122 kroner ($18.36) in trading on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Group 4 Falck employs more than 147,000 employees in 85 countries and has annual revenues of approximately $2.5 billion. (source: newsday)

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