‘I’ve seen a lot in here, but nothing like this’: Nigerian man dies in UK’s largest detention centre

‘He kept himself to himself. He didn’t talk much at all. I don’t think he was happy in here’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 17 September 2019 18:31
The Home Office said an investigation is to be launched into the death of an immigration detainee who was found dead in his cell in Harmondsworth removal centre on Thursday evening
The Home Office said an investigation is to be launched into the death of an immigration detainee who was found dead in his cell in Harmondsworth removal centre on Thursday evening

A Nigerian man has been found dead in his cell at Britain’s largest detention centre – with authorities launching an investigation into the incident.

Oscar Okwurime was discovered lying in his cell at Harmondsworth removal centre by another detainee on Thursday evening.

Tapiwa Furumdi, 24, who has been in Harmondsworth for a year, was in the next cell at the time. He told The Independent he heard a voice from the room expressing shock and anger.

“Someone had gone into the room and found a body and started making noise. Apparently he was already dead. I heard something like: ‘This bloody immigration, look what they’re doing to us’,” he said.

“When I looked in the room, his tongue looked all bloated out of his mouth. I’m still shaken up by it.”

Mr Furumdi, a Zimbabwean national, said officers attended the scene quickly, but that “it was quite apparent that he was already dead”. He said it was not clear how he had died.

The 24-year-old said he didn’t know the Mr Okwurime well, but that he was a “quiet guy”, adding: “He kept himself to himself, a really private person. He didn’t talk much at all.

“I don’t think he was happy in here. It’s sad. I felt sorry for the guy.”

Mr Furumdi said the Mr Okwurime didn’t appear to have had any health problems, adding: “I’ve seen a lot of things in here that shouldn’t be happening, but nothing like this.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any death in detention is a tragic event and our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Mr Okwurime.

“The welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance. All deaths in immigration detention are subject to investigation by the police, the coroner and the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

It comes after the government rejected widespread calls to end the indefinite detention of immigrants in the UK, claiming a time limit would “severely constrain” the ability to maintain effective immigration control.

Campaigners have long urged ministers to introduce a 28-day limit on how long people can be kept in removal centres, saying the system is severely damaging for the wellbeing of detainees.

In July, former Conservative cabinet ministers attacked the Home Office over its refusal to introduce a time limit on immigration detention, saying locking people up indefinitely was “clearly perverse”.

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