Detainees subjected to disgraceful and insulting attitude: Report

Captives spoken to in demeaning terms

7th September 2011: As per two reports by Nick Hardwick, the private security officers employed to remove detainees  from UK, were adopting highly unprofessional method.


Hardwick said some security guards on the flights increased anxiety by using force and self-control without cause, while others used highly nasty and sometime racist language, while talking to each other.

Hardwick said that inspectors were very concerned at the highly insulting and sometimes racist language they heard staff use between themselves.

 Private security officers employed to remove detainees from the UK, showed a disgracefully unprofessional and insulting attitude, using unnecessary force and racist language, according to the chief inspector of prisons.

In two reports Nick Hardwick said most guards worked sympathetically but added that some had an inapt unprofessional approach, raising worry about how they would react if a more serious incident occurred.

The reports are based on the findings of inspectors who accompanied 104 staff escorting 35 detainees to Jamaica, and 131 escorts who were removing 53 detainees to Lagos, Nigeria, in March and April this year. The flights were chartered by the UK Border Agency and private security firm G4S provided the guards.

Hardwick  asserted that escorted elimination was  a difficult and upsetting process. On these inspections, most escorts, most of the time, performed their duties well and dealt understandingly with the requirements of individual detainees.

 However, tensions were sometimes raised when force or restraint was used unnecessarily and some staff demonstrated an unacceptably unprofessional attitude.

The flights took place six months after Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan deportee, died on a British Airways plane preparing to depart from Heathrow for Angola.

 Passengers on BA flight 77 in October later said guards by force held back Mubenga, who had been complaining that he could not breathe. Three guards employed by G4S, which was contracted to escort deportees until May, were arrested over the case, and have been bailed to appear later this month.

Hardwick said some detainees were spoken to in demeaning terms while in other cases guards used tremendously offensive racist language.

 One senior officer used "wholly unacceptable terms", including "gyppos", "pikeys" and "typical Asians", to describe minority groups, while others used crude national stereotypes.

Hardwick said this was not in the hearing of detainees, but it could be heard by other officers and communicated a disrespectful and racist attitude.

Handcuffs were used on detainees who appeared disturbed, or who were moving bit by bit, despite there being no signs of any violent behaviour which might have justified the use of such restraints, the report found. The reports also questioned the decision to screen a violent film during one of the coach transfers.

The reports also disapproved of the security team’s uniform of "quasi combat-style clothing" and said not letting captives close the door when using the toilet "was unbecoming and awkward".

David Wood, the border agency’s head of criminality and detention, said that those with no right to remain in the UK are expected to return home willingly.

Wood added 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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