‘Treatment of deportees’ by private security guards inhuman: Amnesty

Calls for ‘complete and radical overhaul’ of removal process   

7th July 2011: An uncomplimentary report by Amnesty International has revealed shocking details of inhuman behaviour towards foreign nationals in custody by private security guards. The report also recommends ‘complete and radical overhaul" of the government’s removal process.
Captives claim they have been ‘strangled, beaten and dropped down aircraft steps’ while being extradited by private security firms. The report also divulges cases in which foreign nationals, being removed from the UK, have ended up with broken bones.

These cases have occurred since the death last year at Heathrow airport of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan deportee. Amnesty reveals that there appeared to be "no specific scenario-based training, nor specific self- control and hold techniques, developed for operations on board aircraft", a situation it said was "totally unacceptable".

The report, exclusively looked at by the Guardian, submits that private companies hired by the Home Office to remove failed asylum seekers are not properly training their guards. Some guards have used non approved restraints, such as crude body straps and trouser belts, to hold deportees in their seats. Insiders with exact knowledge of the removal system report "serious failings".

As per the report published by the Guardian, the staff is trained in control and self-control system that are unsuitable for use on aircraft. There is no compulsory training for the safe use of handcuffs and restraints besides there is no watertight system in place to make sure that those accredited to conduct removals have received the required level of training.

The report points out that a complete and radical revamp and improvement of the current system was need of the hour to enable the UK government to meet its legal compulsion to protect people against human rights abuses. Re-organisation must severely improve the training, monitoring, accountability, and techniques employed during enforced removals.

Amnesty is calling on the government to consider the German deportee system, where federal police, rather than private security guards, escort people. Prior to the mid-1990s the UK also used police to enforce deportations in the minority of cases where detainees opposed removal.

The immigration minister, Damian Green on the other hand said the government’s contractors worked within a clear legal structure and to a "high standard". He added “We are, however, conducting a fundamental review of the restraint techniques used on aircraft to see if they can be made safer."

Meanwhile Police are still examining the case of 46-year-old Mubenga, who died on a British Airways plane preparing to depart from Heathrow airport for Angola in October 2010. Passengers on BA flight 77 later said guards forcibly restrained Mubenga, who had been complaining that he could not breathe.

Three guards employed by the G4s, the private security firm contracted to escort deportees for the Home Office until May this year, were arrested over the case, and have been re-bailed to appear in September.

In its reply G4S, claimed it thoroughly examined removals, that staff worked in demanding conditions and always carried out the highest possible standards of safety and welfare. The reply too finds mention in the report.

 The company said that the sad death of Jimmy Mubenga in October was the first death in custody experienced by their immigration escorting business and resulted in the immediate suspension of the three custody officers involved.

G4S said there had been internal investigations, overseen by the UK Border Agency’s professional standards unit, and that in no case was a complaint upheld.

The managing director of Reliance Secure Task Management, the security firm, Seb Stewart which took over the Home Office contract, declined to comment on the report.

The human rights group will be urging its members to write to the home secretary, Theresa May to call for the introduction of an independent monitoring system for all removals.

Oliver Sprague, a programme director at Amnesty International UK, said that the ill-trained and inexplicable staff should not be carrying out enforced removals which resulted in many reports of improper treatment.

 Sprague added, "The death of Jimmy Mubenga was a tragedy waiting to happen. Anyone conducting removals must be properly trained and independently monitored or we will have more deaths and more mistreatment. The home secretary should look at best practice from other EU countries which use state law enforcement staff for removals."

He said they understood that the UK government does need to remove some people from the country. But there was no reason why the process cannot be done safely and with respect for people’s basic rights.

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