Security officers accused of racially abusing asylum seekers


Oliver Wright
Tuesday 06 September 2011 00:00

Private security officers removing failed asylum seekers and foreign national prisioners were witnessed by Government inspectors talking about detainees in "a shamefully unprofessional and derogatory" manner, a report reveals today.

Staff working for the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, saw employees of the private security firm G4S using "offensive and sometimes racist language" on a flight to Nigeria.

Handcuffs and other restraint techniques were sometimes used inappropriately. Staff working for G4S were overheard referring to detainees as "gippos", "pikeys" and "typical Asians".

The report comes less than a year after a 46-year-old Angolan man died after being heavily restrained by G4S guards on a British Airways flight.

The Independent first revealed concerns about G4S last June including allegations that a criminal record was no bar to employment by the company and the use of restraint techniques such as "Goose Neck" and "Nose Control".

Mr Hardwick's report today comes after inspectors accompanied 104 staff who were escorting 35 detainees to Jamaica and 131 escorts who were removing 53 detainees to Lagos, Nigeria this year. They also reviewed records of previous removals.

The flights were chartered by the UKBA and G4S provided the guards. In his report on the flight to Nigeria, Mr Hardwick said that while most escorts worked in a professional manner, "escorts sometimes spoke to detainees in patronising terms".

"Inspectors were very concerned at the highly offensive and sometime racist language they heard staff use between themselves," he said. "Quite apart from the offence this language may have caused to those who overheard it, it suggested a shamefully unprofessional and derogatory attitude."

Mr Hardwick added that tensions were also raised "when force or restraint was used unnecessarily". Handcuffs were used on detainees who appeared upset, or who were moving too slowly, despite there being no signs of violent behaviour, the report found.

David Wood, the UKBA's head of criminality and detention, said: "Those with no right to remain in the UK are expected to return home voluntarily. Where they do not we will seek to enforce their removal.

"Removals contractors operate within a clear legal framework and to exacting standards set by the UK Border Agency. "We expect the highest levels of integrity from our staff and contractors and racist and unprofessional behaviour will not be tolerated."

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