The Home Office is investigating allegations of racist WhatsApp texts sent by immigration staff at a firm paid to escort migrants to detention centres.
According to The Sunday Mirror, the messages allegedly made by staff at Mitie include remarks about Syrian refugees, Diane Abbott and Priti Patel.
Mitie said the allegations were brought to its attention by a whistleblower.
Staff subject to the complaints have been suspended pending the results of the investigation, the company said in a statement to the PA news agency.
It added that the WhatsApp group was “not a company channel”.
“There is no place for racism, bullying, or discrimination in our business and we encourage our colleagues to raise any concerns via our whistleblowing procedures so that we can take appropriate action,” a spokesperson for Mitie said.
“We know it can take courage to challenge unacceptable behaviour, and this is something we encourage all of our colleagues to do, so we appreciate this issue being brought to our attention.
“As soon as we were made aware we commenced an investigation which is ongoing. In light of the seriousness of the allegations, we have suspended those colleagues about whom complaints have been made, pending the outcome of the investigation.”
In a statement provided to PA, the Home Office said that the allegations are also being investigated by the department’s Professional Standards Unit.
“The Home Office is investigating the allegations relating to Mitie staff’s behaviour and conduct”, a Home Office spokesperson said.
“Mitie will update the Immigration Minister update next week on the steps being taken to ensure the highest standards are always met and that individuals in their care are treated with dignity and respect.”