Escorts allegedly sit on him
24th January 2011: In yet another incident, a Congolese asylum seeker has alleged he was ill-treated by the UK Border Agency escorts. He claimed he had to struggle for breath, when security staff controlled him at a Heathrow boarding gate. He even feared he was about to die due to the manhandling.
Bienvenue Mbombo, 38, alleged the UK Border Agency escorts had put a knee on his chest and sat on him, as he opposed efforts to deport him on a Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi this month. The UKBA, on the other hand, claimed Mbombo had become violent.
In response to a freedom of information request submitted by the Guardian, the UKBA revealed between January 2009 and November 2010 it had received 59 complaints about alleged mistreatment of deportees. Out of those, 41 were not authenticated, 13 were still being investigated and five had been partially validated on lesser matters.
Criticising the incident, Amnesty International UK’s refugee programme Director, Jan Shaw, said the staff conducting forcible removals must be properly trained to comply with human rights standards. The control techniques and holds used may sound harmless, but ultimately they cause pain by striking people or applying pressure to parts of their body.
Shaw added force should only ever be used proportionately and as a last measure. Amnesty was seriously concerned by the numerous allegations of excessive force being used.
Mbombo, who had been in the UK for eight years, claimed his life would be in danger if he was returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of his past opposition to the government.
Recollecting the incident, he said it was so painful. Mbombo said: ‘One of the escorts had his knee on my chest, another sat on part of my neck and shoulder.’
Elaborating, he added, `There was so much weight on me I couldn’t even talk. I was trying to move my body from side to side to free myself but I couldn’t.’
Mbombo lamented the one who was leaning on his chest had his knee pushing down so hard that he couldn’t breathe.
Mbombo further alleged they were trying to tie up his legs, but before they could do it one of the airline staff, who witnessed the whole thing, interrupted. The airline staff said: ‘We can’t take you on the plane; this violence is four against one.’
He was returned to Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, but has been issued with a fresh removal order by the UKBA for Tuesday.
Dr Charmian Goldwyn of Medical Justice, who examined Mbombo following the incident, said the asylum seeker was in an extremely upset state when examined. Goldwyn added he recognised pains in Mbombo’s head and chest and photographed injuries to his left hand.
Mbombo’s complaint came out as the charity Medical Justice, which monitors the welfare of those in immigration detention, said it had records of 11 people being injured in forced removals since the death of Jimmy Mubenga last October. Amnesty International has also voiced concerns about the treatment of deportees.
Mubenga originally from Angola, collapsed on a BA flight from Heathrow and later died. He had been restrained and complained of breathing problems before he lost consciousness.
Theresa Schleicher, Medical Justice’s casework manager, said that they had 11 recommendations since Mubenga from detainees with injuries, resulting from the use of force during attempts to deport them. Theresa said they were having difficulties now in finding enough doctors to visit detainees.
Alan Kittle, UKBA director of detention services, said the use of control and command techniques, credited by the National Offender Management Service, may be used by escorts as a last option if a detainee becomes troublesome during their removal from the UK.
In this case, Mbombo became violent when boarding his flight, leaving the escorts no choice but to restrain him to ensure his own safety and the safety of others. Mbombo was seen by a nurse on his return to Harmondsworth immigration removal centre and did not complain of any injuries as a result of his restraint.
Kittle stressed that UKBA was determined to remove those who have no right to be in the UK and refuse to return voluntarily. The agency declined to comment on Medical Justice’s complaints about other injuries "since they have not referred them to the UKBA".