Deportation abuses 'should be investigated'

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The Independent Online

MPs have backed a parliamentary motion calling on the Government to investigate claims that failed asylum-seekers are routinely abused by their British guards when they are being forcibly returned to their own countries.

The issue was first highlighted in The Independent, which published revelations this month about 200 cases of alleged physical or racist mistreatment.

An early day motion tabled by Diane Abbott and signed by MPs raises particular concern that deportations continue to take place even when detainees have clear signs of mental or physical illness.

The MPs are especially troubled by the case of a Cameroon woman who claims she was so badly beaten by her escort team during the flight that the Cameroon government sent her back to Britain.

Beatrice Guessie, 29, has since been granted bail by an immigration judge and is now living in Liverpool pending a second attempt to remove her. She has instructed lawyers to sue the Home Office for assault and unlawful imprisonment.

Other cases include alleged racist abuse carried out by guards working for private security companies.

The true scale of the abuse may be hidden because many political refugees turned down by Britain will have been successfully repatriated and unable to bring their complaints to the attention of the British authorities.

Emma Ginn, of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, said the abuse is a direct consequence of the Government's "mad scramble to deport people no matter what the human cost". Ms Ginn, one of the authors of the 200-case dossier, accuses the Government of turning a blind eye to the abuse in order to meet arbitrary targets for the forced repatriation of asylum-seekers.

In a separate development, the Commission investigating asylum and immigration in Britain has asked to see evidence of the allegations so it can take them into account before making its recommendations next year.

Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons and one of the commissioners helping to compile the report, said: "I am very interested in having a look at this evidence in the context of our work on asylum and immigration in this country. When I was inspector of prisons I was very concerned about these detention centres and lack of rules governing these places. I think just as you can tell a lot about a nation by the way it treats its prisoners, the same can be said of the way we treat foreign nationals."

Ms Abbott's early day motion says that the House "is concerned at the story of Beatrice Guessie who was so badly injured during deportation to Cameroon that officials at Cameroon airport refused to allow her entrance to the country and so instead she was returned to the UK where she was treated at Hillingdon Hospital for severe genital bleeding and multiple bruising and deemed by a psychiatrist to be in severe shock, only to be returned to Yarl's Wood detention centre".

Ms Abbott said: "Asylum-seekers whose claim has been refused by the Home Office are often a very vulnerable group of people. The reports of abuse during the deportation process that have come out over the past weeks are shocking and illustrate the need to investigate robustly the techniques of the companies that handle deportations."

'If I go back now my life will be in danger'- Beatrice Guessie, asylum-seeker

After Beatrice Guessie's terrifying ordeal at the hands of a private security company paid to send her back to Cameroon, she is back in the Liverpool community where she found refuge when she first came to Britain five years ago.

A judge ordered her release from Yarl's Wood detention centre last week, and Ms Guessie, 29, is back with the people of Huyton, who believe the Government must make amends for what she has suffered by granting her asylum. But the Home Office is seeking permission for a second attempt to return her to Cameroon. "If I go back my life will be in danger," she said at the church where she works as a volunteer, packing boxes of clothes for other asylum-seekers in Britain. "Here I have friends and feel safe."

In August she was put on a flight from Southampton airport. During the flight, and at a stop-over in Paris, she claims she suffered injuries.