AN immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport has been forced to close due to a large Covid outbreak.
Detainees at Brook House in West Sussex have been moved 40 miles to Colnbrook removal centre near Heathrow.
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They include criminals who have been transferred from prison at the end of their sentence before being deported and asylum seekers held there while their claims are being processed, it is understood.
Twenty five confirmed coronavirus cases of both staff and detainees were confirmed in the middle of December but it is understood that number has continued to rise.
Twenty three were staff and two were detainees with several detaineesmoved to Colnbrook.
It comes after Covid deaths in the UK topped 1,000 again, with more than 50,000 new cases recorded today.
A source told The Sun it had spread like “wildfire” through the centre.
It will now be closed until January 16 while a large cleaning operation is launched.
The source added: “This has been a major logistical challenge.
"It’s impacted the staff more than the detainees. Originally three wings were closed, now the whole place has shut.
“Detainees had been told to stay in their rooms. It’s staff that has been a particular worry.
This has been a major logistical challenge
“Some of those due to be deported are migrants that have arrived on small boats across the Channel.”
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “In agreement with Public Health England, we have temporarily closed Brook House for ten days due to a number of positive coronavirus cases among staff.
"A very small number of detainees have been moved to another Immigration Removal Centre as a result.
“The welfare of those detained in our care is of the utmost importance and we are working closely with our providers and Public Health England to stop the spread of the virus.
"This includes enhanced cleaning regimes across immigration centres and making sure anyone who may have been exposed to the virus self-isolates.”
A spokesman for outsourcing giant Serco which runs the centre, said it could confirm “there were no longer any residents in Brook House”.
It said there are 23 employees who have currently tested positive and who self-isolating.
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