Detention centre publicised safety award just 24 hours after man died in custody

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The Independent Online

An immigration removal centre has been criticised for publicising news of a health and safety award the day after a Kenyan man died in its custody.

The Oakington centre in Cambridge issued the statement announcing it had won an award from the British Safety Council hours after Eliud Nyenzi, an asylum seeker, was found dead in his room. G4S, the private security company which runs the centre, said the award recognised Oakington's "commitment to improving corporate health and safety". But after the death, the centre has been stripped of the award.

Oakington was notified about the award on 12 April. Three days later, on 15 April, Eliud Nyenze, a 40-year-old Kenyan, died in his room amid allegations that staff had ignored his pleas for a doctor and medication.

The next day G4S issued a press release trumpeting its success. Andy Clark, the managing director of immigration services, said he was "delighted to be further recognised for our continued commitment to health and safety".

Yesterday the British Safety Council (BSC) said it was withdrawing the award pending the results of Mr Nyenzi's inquest – the date of which has not been fixed due to difficulties in contacting his next of kin. The case is being investigated by the Prisons Ombudsman.

A spokesman for the BSC said: "The British Safety Council will be withdrawing the 2009 International Safety Award bestowed on G4S Oakington Immigration Removal Centre pending the completion of official investigations taking place into the death of Mr Eliud Nyenze. We will give further consideration once the results of the investigations into Mr Nyenze's death are known. Our deepest sympathy goes to Mr Nyenze's family."

G4S released a statement which read: "We are extremely disappointed by this decision, however we are hopeful that Oakington IRC will be reaccredited with its International Safety Award after the conclusion of the investigation."

Oakington, which has been severely criticised over its treatment of detainees, is to close by 2011. Emma Ginn, of the doctor-led immigration campaign group Medical Justice, said: "It is worrying that a immigration detention centre can publicise a safety award days after a man has died in its custody."

The Home Office declined to comment on the case.

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