Home Office asked to stop subhuman treatment of immigrants
15th November 2010: Emotions are colour blind. A lot of it was on display from people from different walks of life, Black and White, when they came together in London on 12th November to protest the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died at the hands of GS4, a security company contracted by the British Government to enforce the deportation of people considered illegal immigrants.
The groundswell of anger against his death can be understood against the growing incidences of forced deportations resulting in death by the tactics and roles of private security firms in the deportation business chain.
The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that Jimmy was handcuffed and restrained by three private security guards on a British Airways flight from Heathrow on 12th October 2010. According to eyewitnesses, Jimmy was heard by other passengers crying out for help that never came.
Not a lot of people are willing to speak up when confronted with that kind of spectacle on flights. That’s because some people who have done so in the past have terribly bitter experiences to tell. One such person is Mr. Ayodeji Omotade. Speaking at the protests, he recounted his sad experience. In his words: “I boarded British Airways flight BA075 to Nigeria on the 27th March 2008 to attend my brother’s wedding. As we waited for the flight to take off, I saw a 6 foot tall man, a certain Mr. Eme, shackled in chains from leg to waist being forcibly manhandled, in handcuffs, being restrained on the floor screaming at the rear end of the plane. No one was willing to say anything. Some BA crew members formed a cordon to shield him from our views. That went ominously on for almost 40 minutes.”
Pausing to catch his breath and fighting back tears, Omotade continued. “Then I heard him say in Nigerian Pidgin English, ‘I fit die ooo’ – meaning ‘I am dying’. It was then I stood up and told them that this man is saying he’s dying. Other passengers also summoned up courage to ask questions.
“The police took away the deportee, and before the dust settled, 20 Metropolitan police officers dragged me off the flight, arrested and put me in handcuffs, then locked me up for nine hours. All my money, meant for the wedding of my brother was seized – under the Proceeds of Crime Act. BA banned me from all their flights; I missed my brother’s wedding and waited anxiously for 18 months before the case went to court.”
Visibly worried for the family Jimmy Mubenga left behind, Omotade said he could relate to the absolute horror playing out in their minds concerning the future.
Emma Ginn of the advocacy group, Medical Justice did not mince her words. She berated the Home Office and their devil-may-care attitude to immigrants of all shades. She said the Home Office as well as their contractors, including the British Airways and GS4 group are perpetrating this unjust system of immigrant detention because of commercial interest.
British Airways, she said, must be benefitting a lot from the deportation business as they couldn’t be doing it for charity. Emma also condemned the highhanded way in which the Home Office goes about handling issues. In her words: “The Home Office still refers to human beings in the immigration detention centres as ‘stock’, treats them with contempt while they deliberately withhold information of their wrongdoings from the public.”
It’s a high time they ended the subhuman treatment of immigrants and stopped being allergic to scrutiny, Emma said.
Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, also lent his support to the immigrant community. He urged the British Government to appreciate and respect the role that the immigrant community plays in the development and stability of the UK.
Deborah Coles, representing INQUEST, spoke to the gathering claiming that the use of excessive force during the deportation process has been comprehensively documented and published. She said Jimmy’s death was a tragedy waiting to happen and the death raises a number of issues of wider concern that warrants urgent parliamentary scrutiny in order to prevent further deaths and injuries.
The protesters displayed multi-coloured banners and placards, and chanted ‘Justice for Mubenga’ during the procession from the Angolan Embassy to the Home Office, in central London.
Addressing the distraught crowd, Adalberto Miranda, the leader of the Union of Angolans UK asked: “You say the black family lacks the father figure and that constitutes a reason for dysfunctional families. Now that you’ve killed Jimmy Mubenga, hope you’d become a husband to his widowed wife and a father to his children.” He then broke down into uncontrollable sobs.
Mrs. Mubenga and her three teenage children, who had maintained a dignified presence throughout the procession – despite their bloodshot eyes, a result of endless cries, broke down and wept.
Mr. Mubenga’s less than two-year old son, not old enough to understand what was going on, timidly clung to the embrace of his sister.
They all stood there, outside the Home Office building site, at 2 Marsham Street, with a letter in hand for the Home Secretary Theresa May, but the security would not allow them entry into the building to meet with the government official whose ministry engaged the services of GS4. They were only attended to by a certain Mr. David Cheesman, who collected the letter and promised to deliver it.
As the crowds dispersed, various groups made last minute impassioned speeches, asking the European Union to look into this deplorable matter that has claimed many immigrant lives Europe-wide.
14 of such deaths have been recorded since 1991.
Arumugam Kanapathipillai – France, 1991
Joy Gardner – UK, 1993
Kola Bankole – Germany, 1994
Semira Adamu – Belgium, 1998
Khaled Abuzarifeh – Switzerland, 1999
Marcus Omofuna – Austria, 1999
Christian Ecole – Hungary, 2000
Samson Chukwu – Switzerland, 2001
Ricardo Barrientos – France, 2002
Mariame Getu Hagos – France, 2003
Osamuyi Aikpitanhi – Spain, 2007
Joseph Ndukadu Chiakwa – Switzerland 2010
Jimmy Mubenga – UK, 2010
By Jesse Adeniji
Deportee Mubenga’s death "extraordinarily regrettable"