26 January 2012

UK immigration practices attacked by MPs

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A report by the Commons' Home Affairs Committee has claimed in a recently published report that UK immigration authorities have permitted unacceptable behaviour by private security guards.

UK visa

Independent contractors used inappropriate force and racist language in front of UK Border Agency staff.

UK immigration officials subcontract the job of escorting deportees to their flight to security company Reliance, who succeeded G4S in May 2011. The scathing report on practices in deportation cases however, details racist language being used toward detainees, the use of excessive and inappropriate force and overstaffing.

The report comes after Jimmy Mubenga, 46, collapsed and died on a deportation flight to Angola in October 2010; the case is still being investigated by the police.

The report claimed that there was 'inappropriate use of physical restraint, including some techniques that could be dangerous' - referring to what is known as 'head down restraint', when a detainee is forced to bend over while seated. Recent research into the method revealed that the method of restraint caused breathing problems and could also lead to death.

The committee's report claimed they were not satisfied that this method had never been used, despite it not being authorised by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

"We recommend that the Home Office issue urgent guidance to all staff involved in enforced removals about the danger of seated restraint techniques in which the subject is bent forwards" said the report.

The report also detailed several contractors using racist language, not only among themselves but also in front of inspectors.

"It is a matter of serious concern that contractors should use racist language among themselves. That they were content to do so in front of not only UK Border Agency staff but also inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons is shocking. It is possibly the result of a relationship between the Agency and its contractors which had become too cosy."

The report also detailed other concerns such as excessive staff accompanying detainees on deportations - as many as 100 to escort 35 immigrants without a UK visa and taking 'reserve' detainees to airports in case another detainee is removed from the flight.

Chairman of Commons' Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz said "People who are not entitled to remain in the country must be removed and there may be occasions when it is necessary to use physical force, but this must always be done only when absolutely necessary, and with proper respect for the dignity of the detainee.

"The [UK Border] Agency must introduce tougher management processes to ensure that contractors are delivering the service that the public expect, and that senior management challenge unacceptable behaviour."

A spokesperson for the UKBA contested the report saying: "All escorts on flights are trained to use restraint techniques approved by the Prison Service.

"We have no evidence contractors use head-down restraints and would take strong action against them if their conduct does not meet our standards.

"We are currently working closely with NOMS (National Offender Management Service) to develop specific techniques appropriate to confined spaces."


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