Immigrant detainees face ‘excessive force and abuse,’ says report

Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts three years ago

Immigrant detainees sent home from the UK are still facing “disproportionate force and restraint” and are subjected to offensive language from their escorts, according to a new report.

Despite the death of Jimmy Mubenga three years ago, when G4S security guards unlawfully killed the 46-year-old after forcefully restraining him prior to take-off on a British Airways flight to Angola, there are still “no recognised safe procedures” for using restraint on board aircraft, the document said.

Mr Mubenga’s death led to monitoring of overseas escorts returning detainees to Afghanistan, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Nigeria.

Subsequent findings by the UK National Preventive Mechanism unit, covering the period April 2012 to March 2013, raised concerns that people were facing abuse from officials in their own country following deportation.

“Concerns were raised that not enough was done to reduce stress for detainees, that there was disproportionate use of force and restraint, and examples of unprofessional behaviour by escorts who used very offensive language in front of detainees and others,” the report said.

“Concerns about detainees experiencing aggressive behaviour by home officials on arrival in their destination country, as well as the lack of information on their home country to help prepare for return, were also expressed.”

It added that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons “was also concerned that there were no recognised safe procedures for the use of restraint in the confined spaces of an aircraft”. The time taken between the detainee being discharged from the immigration removal centre and boarding their aircraft was also found to be “excessive”.

The report identified 19 cases where people were subject to “de facto detention” without proper legal authority – 16 of which occurred in a hospital or care home. Ten of them had either dementia or learning difficulties.

The authors said while considerable care was taken with some vulnerable detainees, an initial risk assessment was “lacking” and that “searching and handcuffing procedures were a matter of routine rather than related to risk”.

Colin Yeo, a barrister specialising in immigration law, wrote on the Free Movement blog: “Enforcing immigration control is an inherently brutal and inhumane process.

“The victims have been subjected to a campaign of dehumanisation by government and media. The people attracted to immigration enforcement work, or willing to do it, will always include some who will behave in an abusive manner.”

Rachel Robinson, director of policy for Liberty, said: “Jimmy Mubenga’s death should’ve been a sharp wake-up call on the dangerous tactics used – designed for restraining violent criminals, not for use by badly trained contractors on severely distressed deportees. Fundamental reform is vital to protect those trapped in the ugly underbelly of immigration control.”

However, the report did note a “reasonably well-run operation, with a lot of attention being paid to detainees and their concerns, by both the immigration team and the overseas escort contractor”. It added that: “On the whole, escort procedures were well organised and escorts dealt with detainees sensitively and effectively.”

However, it concluded that monitoring should continue “to ensure that they are being escorted safely and treated fairly under extremely difficult conditions, and ensure that recommendations are acted on”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Detention and removal are essential elements of an effective immigration system. Detainees’ welfare is extremely important and we are committed to treating all those in our care with dignity and respect.”

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