A private security company at the centre of a police investigation into the death of a 46-year-old Angolan asylum seeker has failed to retain its contract with the Home Office.
G4S, which for five years has been the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) leading immigration escort company, is to be replaced by another private contractor, Reliance Security Task Management. Guards working for G4S have been accused of the abuse of dozens of asylum seekers during forced removals from the UK.
Earlier this month, Scotland Yard arrested three G4S staff involved in the deportation of Jimmy Mubenga, who collapsed and died while being escorted on a on BA flight 77 from Heathrow airport in London. His death and many other serious allegations of excessive force have led to calls for G4S to be fully investigated.
British pilots have also given eye-witness accounts of the ill-treatment of asylum seekers by security guards during deportation flights. Several reports were made to an airline industry website in response to Mr Mubenga's death.
In one case, not Mr Mubenga's, a pilot describes how guards stamped on a man's head while forcing him into his seat. Writing on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network site, the captain said: "I think the government agencies on that day exceeded the boundaries acceptable on commercial flights and (irrespective of the depo's [deportee's] crimes) infringed the law of the land and the rights of the individual."
Last year lawyers and voluntary groups published a dossier of 300 cases alleging systemic abuse of deportees, many of them involving G4S employees. In her investigation of those claims, Dame Nuala O'Loan, a former ombudsman of the police force of Northern Ireland, criticised the UKBA for failing to investigate complaints of abusive treatment properly.
Three cases involved serious injuries, which included a punctured lung, a broken finger and a dislocated knee. O'Loan said that the private security companies involved had failed to properly manage the use of violent restraint techniques by their staff. In particular, staff in some cases had failed to consider whether the use of force was "proportionate and necessary".
However, she dismissed a claim of "systemic abuse", saying that there was no pattern of inappropriate force by any individual.
Emma Ginn, of the charity Medical Justice, said: "Whether UKBA dumping G4S in favour of Reliance will make deportees safer depends crucially on the terms of the new contract ... There needs to be a review of force techniques allowed, training in their use, and the appropriateness of their application. The conclusions of the review need to be made public."
David Wood, strategic director for the Criminality and Detention Group at the UKBA, said: "We can confirm that Reliance Security Task Management Limited has won the tender to provide escort services both in-country and overseas on behalf of the UK Border Agency.
"Throughout the comprehensive tendering process, which began in September 2009, Reliance has demonstrated an ability to provide excellent service and its bid offers the best value for money."
A UKBA spokesman added that that the decision to give the G4S contract to another bidder was taken on 12 August and had nothing to do with the Jimmy Mubenga case. He said the contract was reviewed every four years.