Deaths in immigration detention: 1989-2017

Deaths in immigration detention: 1989-2017


Written by: Harmit Athwal

Below we list all deaths that have taken place in immigration removal and short-term holding centres since 1989; we also list those who have died shortly after release from immigration detention.

There have been thirty-four deaths in immigration removal centres since 1989; three women and the rest men. Harmondsworth detention centre accounts for nine deaths; five people have died at Colnbrook and Morton Hall; three at Yarl’s Wood and the Verne and two each at Campsfield, Dungavel and Haslar. One person has died at each of the detention centres Dover and Oakington (now closed) and Pennine House (a short-term holding facility).

19/11/17 Arim Bakar

A 27-year-old Iraqi man found dead at Morton Hall. Detainees at the centre told the Guardian, that the man had been on suicide watch and guards were supposed to be checking on him every 30 minutes.

03/10/17 Carrington Spencer

A 38-year-old Jamaican man dies in hospital after being detained at Morton Hall (which is run by the Prison Service).

19/09/17 Unnamed Chinese man

Found dead in Dungavel detention centre in Scotland. 

07/09/17 Marcin Gwozdzinski

A 28-year-old Polish man was found at Harmondsworth (run by Mitie) in west London with self-inflicted injuries on 3 September and died four days later in hospital.

09/04/17 Branko Zdravkovic

A 43-year-old man found hanged at the Verne in Portland, Dorset, a detention centre run by the Prison Service. According to the Daily Echo, Zdravkovic was meant to be on ‘enhanced observation’ as he was at risk of self harm.

11/01/17 Lukasz Debowski

A 27-year-old Polish man found hanged in Morton Hall IRC in Lincolnshire on the day his son was born. The Glasgow Unity Centre reported that he had been refused bail before Christmas as there was no surety available and his heavily pregnant girlfriend had been unable to attend the hearing.

06/12/16 Bai Ahmed Kabia

A 49-year-old man found dead in Morton Hall IRC. According to other detainees the man from Sierra Leone had been in the UK for 27 years and had served a six-month sentence for the use of false documents, leading to his indefinite immigration detention for two years. He was apparently taken ill at Morton Hall and transferred to hospital, and later died.

01/12/16 Tarek Chowdhury

Died after being attacked at Colnbrook removal centre; 31-year-old Zana Assad Yusif was charged with murder.

17/02/16 Amir Siman-Tov

A Moroccan man found dead at Colnbrook IRC where he had been detained for only three weeks and was on suicide watch.

07/08/15 Thomas Kirungi

A 30-year-old Ugandan who was found dead at The Verne IRC (formerly a prison but ‘repurposed’ to an IRC in March 2014). According to friends he became depressed after his asylum claim was refused.

20/04/15 Pinakin Patel

A 33-year-old man who died of a heart attack while being held in the family unit at Yarl’s Wood (operated by Serco) with his wife. An inquest in October 2015 was told that on arrival in the UK on 12 February he and his wife were taken straight to Yarl’s Wood from Heathrow after immigration officials did not believe that the family were here on holiday. The inquest was critical of the failure to implement changes recommended following an earlier death in 2014.

05/09/14 Rubel Ahmed

A 26-year-old man Bangladeshi man died in Morton Hall detention centre. The Home Office informed his family that he had taken his own life, but fellow detainees report that he had complained of chest pains. Ahmed reportedly banged on the door asking for help, but an ambulance was not called until 11.30pm. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

04/06/14 Bruno dos Santos

A 25-year-old Angolan man found dead in his cell at the Verne in Portland, Dorset. An inquest took place in May 2016 and was told that he died from neurosarcoidosis, a rare brain disease and that he also suffered from epilepsy but was receiving treatment for that. The jury found that ‘An MRI scan may have led to diagnosis and possible medical treatment, which may have prevented his death’. A number of MRIs planned before his death were cancelled for various reasons.

30/3/14 Christine Case

A 40-year-old Jamaican woman died in Yarl’s Wood (run by Serco). She was reportedly heard calling for help and had complained of chest pains shortly before she suffered a heart attack. The emergency services were called around 8am, but she was pronounced dead at Yarl’s Wood at 8.47am.

26/7/13 Tahir Mehmood

A 43-year-old man died at Pennine House short-term detention centre, Manchester, after suffering a ‘medical episode’. This is the first death in a short-term holding centre. Pennine House is operated by Tascor.[1]

 10/02/13 Alois Dvorzac

2006 demonstration outside Harmondsworth

An 84-year-old Canadian man (of Slovenian descent) suffering from Alzheimer’s died in hospital after becoming ill at Harmondsworth (run by the GEO Group Ltd). He was said to have been ‘extremely distressed’ before being rushed to hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack. He died in handcuffs which guards had put on five hours earlier. Just a few weeks before his death an attempt to deport him was halted after a doctor ruled him unfit to fly. A doctor at Harmondsworth told Channel 4 News ‘This person was extremely vulnerable, he was frail, he should not have been there in the first place, let alone to be detained for such a long while.’

30/10/12 Prince Kwabena Fosu

A 31-year-old Ghanaian detainee was found dead at Harmondsworth (run by the GEO Group Ltd). Other people detained at the centre issued a statement following the death that made a number of serious allegations about what happened to Prince Ofosu and about the poor treatment of others at the centre. They alleged that guards at the centre restrained Prince while in the ‘block’ (segregation unit) and that he had been held naked in his unheated cell.

2/8/11 Ianos Dragutan

A Moldovan man was found hanged in a shower cubicle at Campsfield (run by Mitie). He had served a three-month prison sentence for possessing false documents before arriving at Campsfield on 31 July. Two days later, officers told Mr Dragutan to collect his belongings for release, although it is believed that he was also due to face questioning in connection with a rape case. When police arrived Ianos Dragutan left the waiting room, entered the shower block and hanged himself. An inquest jury found that he took his own life.

31/7/11 Brian Dalrymple

A 31-year-old American man with significant health problems died in Colnbrook (run by Serco) a few days after being moved from Harmondsworth (which is next door to Colnbrook). In July 2014, and inquest jury recorded a verdict that Bran died of natural causes contributed to by neglect.

2/7/11 Muhammad Shukat

A 47-year-old Pakistani man died after suffering a heart attack in Colnbrook (run by Serco). In May 2012, an inquest jury recorded a highly critical verdict that found that neglect contributed to his death. According to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) report into his death, he was transferred from Brook House (near Gatwick) to Harmondsworth on 26 May. He was held at Harmondsworth for nearly a month, during which time he withdrew his claim for asylum and asked for assisted voluntary return. He was moved to Colnbrook on 29 June (at 1am) and died just a few days later. While he was held at Harmondsworth he made a complaint about the healthcare at the centre that was not followed up, staff at the healthcare unit also failed to obtain his medical records despite his written authorisation. These records ‘could have provided significant information that could have assisted healthcare staff [at Colnbrook] on the morning he died.’ The PPO made a number of recommendations following his investigation into Muhammad Shukat’s care at Harmondsworth, in relation to healthcare and the complaints process at Harmondsworth (numerous other recommendations were made in relation to the care that he received at Colnbrook).

15/4/10 Eliud Nguli Nyenze

A 40-year-old Kenyan man died at Oakington removal centre in Cambridge after apparently suffering a heart attack. Campaigners and other detainees alleged that he had been refused medical care. Following his death a disturbance erupted at Oakington and at least sixty people were transferred to prisons. In the days following his death, G4S, which operated the centre, was stripped of its British Safety Council award for its ‘commitment to improving health and safety’. An inquest in October 2010 was told that Eliud had collapsed in his room and had earlier been refused paracetamol despite complaining that he was unwell. An ambulance took twenty minutes to reach the centre and the nurse who went to treat him did not take a defibrillator with her. The Home Office pathologist could find no cause of death but suggested sudden adult death syndrome. The inquest jury recorded a verdict that he died of natural causes, a verdict Eliud’s family were unhappy with.

19/1/06 Bereket Yohannes

A 26-year-old Eritrean was found hanged in a shower block at Harmondsworth (run by UK Detention Services – UKDS). According to other detainees at the centre, he was fearful of deportation to Italy and found conditions at Harmondsworth ‘unbearable’. An inquest in March 2007 was told how he had previously tried to take his own life while he was held at Dover immigration removal centre a month prior to his death. The inquest jury found that he took his own life.

Demonstration outside Yarl’s Wood following the death of Manuel Bravo

15/9/05 Manuel Bravo

An Angolan man, detained in Yarl’s Wood (then run by Global Solutions Limited – GSL) with his 13-year-old son, was found hanged in a stairwell on the morning of his 35th birthday and the day he was due to be deported. His young son was transferred to the care of members of his father’s church in Leeds. Campaigners and members of Manuel’s church called for a public inquiry into the death and the ‘illegal detention’ of Manuel, who claimed he had not even received a decision on his asylum appeal and therefore could not understand why he had been served with a deportation order. In September 2006, the inquest recorded a narrative verdict that Manuel took his life in the belief that it could secure his son’s future in the UK.

27/6/05 Ramazan Kumluca

An 18-year-old Kurdish asylum seeker from Turkey was found hanged in Campsfield House (run by GSL). He had been detained for over four months, was said to be depressed after bail was refused and feared deportation to Turkey or Italy. In July 2006, an inquest found that he had taken his own life.

7/11/04 Kenny Peter

A 24-year-old asylum seeker died in Charing Cross hospital, nearly three weeks after sustaining serious injuries after jumping from a second-floor landing at Colnbrook (run by Premier Detention Services). He suffered from mental health problems and while held in detention it was recommended at least six times that he be referred to a psychiatrist – yet this was never followed up. The inquest in September 2006 recorded a lengthy narrative verdict that listed numerous deficiencies and failures by immigration staff, staff at the centre and in the healthcare unit at Colnbrook.

23/7/04 Tran Quang Tung (aka Pham Kim Hoan or Houan)

A 35-year-old Vietnamese man was found hanged in Dungavel immigration removal centre. He had been transferred days earlier from Harmondsworth following the disturbance after the death of Sergey Baranyuk (see below). A fatal accident inquiry was told how he arrived in the UK in April 2004 and claimed asylum (he had already tried to claim asylum in Germany). After being granted temporary entry, lawyers made further representations but asylum was refused and he was told he faced removal to Germany. On 18 July he was arrested after a raid on his home and sent to Harmondsworth. A nurse who saw him at Harmondsworth did not know what language he spoke nor did she use an interpreter. On 21 July he was transferred to Dungavel by bus with fifty-nine others after the disturbance. Medical staff who examined him at Dungavel (run by Premier Detention Services) were again unable to communicate with him. When an immigration officer served him with his removal notice, for 27 July, she did not have an interpreter with her. A solicitor saw him on the day of his death and was unable to have any ‘meaningful’ discussion as Tran spoke such little English. The fatal accident inquiry[2] recommended that detained people, who did not speak English well, should have access to interpreters during interviews and that documents should also be translated.

19/7/04 Sergey Baranyuk

A 31-year-old Ukrainian was found hanged in Harmondsworth (run by UKDS). His death sparked a night of disturbances at the centre and led to all detainees being transferred to prisons and other detention centres. The inquest was told little about Sergey as very few people could remember him. Staff at the centre and immigration staff had very little contact with him in the two months that he was held in detention. He had been assigned to the fast-track system and detained with no information for over six weeks despite having agreed to voluntary return three days after submitting his asylum claim. The inquest jury recorded a verdict that he ‘took his own life’. The PPO described the circumstances of his death as ‘sad and shameful’.

1/5/04 Kabeya Dimuka-Bijoux

An 34-year-old asylum seeker from the DRC died at Haslar (run by the Prison Service) after collapsing while exercising on a treadmill. Staff attempted to resuscitate him but failed and he was pronounced dead in the gym. An inquest in July 2005 recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. However there were reports that he had died from injuries sustained two months earlier when police and officials from Reliance House immigration centre in Liverpool allegedly assaulted him.

12/7/03 Elmas Ozmico

A 40-year-old Kurdish asylum seeker died three days after being admitted to hospital from Dover detention centre suffering from septicaemia/necrotising fasciitis. She had arrived at Dover on 8 July 2003 after travelling clandestinely from Turkey; during the journey she developed an abscess on her thigh. On arrival in the UK, she claimed asylum and her nephew (with whom she had travelled) requested a doctor and an interpreter. He says this request was ignored, as were subsequent ones. The family spent the night in detention in Dover detention centre and the following day Elmas requested a doctor, but it was not until she collapsed that it was realised that she was very ill and needed an ambulance to take her to hospital. An inquest found that she died of natural causes.

7/5/03 Olga Blaskevica

A 29-year-old Latvian woman was murdered in the family holding area at Harmondsworth by her mentally ill partner, hours before the pair were due to be deported. In June 2004, Olegs Pavlos denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was found to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

31/1/03 Mikhail Bognarchuk

A 42-year-old Ukrainian man was found hanged in a toilet at Haslar (run by the Prison Service) on the day he was due to be deported. An inquest recorded a suicide verdict.

24/1/00 Robertas Grabys

A 49-year-old Lithuanian was was found hanged in Harmondsworth on the day he was due to be deported. A report on his death criticised the company that was in charge of Harmondsworth at the time (Burns International). An internal Home Office inquiry found that the company did not have a formal policy to prevent suicides and that there was insufficient care. (His body was not found for over one hour as guards did not check the room, although he was known to suffer from a depressive illness.) An inquest recorded an open verdict.

15/6/90 Kimpua Nsimba

A 24-year-old Zairean man was found hanged in Harmondsworth, where he was detained because the Home Office could not find an interpreter. No one had spoken to him since his arrival over four days earlier. An inquest recorded a suicide verdict.

5/10/89 Siho Iyugiven

A 27-year-old Kurdish refugee burned to death after barricading himself in his cell at Harmondsworth. His asylum claim had failed and he was facing deportation. He and his cellmate went on hunger strike, barricaded themselves in and set bedding alight as a protest. Smoke detectors were not working, few fire extinguishers worked and there were no sprinklers. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

Deaths following release from immigration detention

There have been at least five deaths since 2005 shortly after release from detention.

30/03/13 Khalid Shahzad

A 52-year-old Pakistani man died (unaccompanied) on a train to the Northwest, hours after he was released on medical grounds from Colnbrook. He had reportedly been told that he did not have long to live and had already collapsed (and been hospitalised) twice before his release.

17/11/12 Jakana Chowdhury

Died in hospital having been there for several days. He was placed in intensive care during the evening of 16 November and was only at that point released from detention at Harmondsworth. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) decided not to investigate this death because of ‘insufficient staff resources’. The Home Office Professional Standards Unit is investigating.

6/12/11 Unnamed French man

An unnamed man died in hospital after release from Harmondsworth (run by GEO). The PPO investigated the death and a draft report made seven recommendations, five of which related to the procedures that should be followed by the Home Office and contractors after a death in custody. (Read an IRR News story on the PPO report: Institutional indifference – in life and death.)

09/08 Unnamed Zimbabwean man

A 32-year-old died after release from Colnbrook where he had been held for two years. A post mortem revealed the cause of death as tuberculosis (TB) which, being deemed a natural cause, meant that no inquest was held into his death.

14/03/05 Unnamed man

A 33-year-old Cameroonian man died in Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge following his release from Oakington on 26 February after being held there for just one day. He had been transferred from Manchester short term holding centre where he had spent two nights. He died from natural causes owing to an AIDS related illness.

Related links

Download the IRR’s report Dying for Justice here (includes a section on deaths in immigration detention)

Download an IRR Briefing Paper: Asylum deaths: what to do next

Download an IRR report: ‘Driven to desperate measures 2006-2010

IRR News article: Full list of deaths during deportations from Europe

Updated 30November. [1] In August 2012, Reliance Secure Task Management (RSTM) and Reliance Medical services (RSM) were acquired by Capita and in January 2013, the companies were renamed as Tascor. [2] Fatal Accident Inquiries are carried out in Scotland in a sheriff court following a death in the workplace or in cases which give rise to reasonable suspicion (they are similar to inquests).

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

2 thoughts on “Deaths in immigration detention: 1989-2017

  1. What would be the UKs saying, if such inhuman acts and cover up of such death was happening in Assads Syria or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe?……
    Practice what you preach, life is life.

    What is the point of spending tax payers millions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya when valuable human life is still lost in your ‘household’?…where do you get the moral right to sanction against regimes oppressing gays when you treat them far worse when they reach your shores?


    Millions of people all over the world are being driven from border to border, by government forces and their associates; including big-budget “humanitarian” agencies who carefully “work with governments” in order to keep their lucrative careers.

    The 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees states simply that anyone outside their own country, due to human rights abuse, is to be treated just the same as a citizen of the country where they find themselves.

    This concept has become problematic, as at least 50 million people all over the world are allowed to languish in permanent refugee conditions. No country can absorb such numbers. Only a tiny percent ever enter the rich countries, from whom flow funding, arms, and corporate profit agendas which create refugee crises.

    In paper-thin window-dressing of compliance with the Geneva Convention, governments have now devised vastly complex legal structures aimed at officially denying refugees’ reports of torture, rape, war crimes, and genocide from all over the world. Refugees are kept for years on end in a rat-maze of endless litigation.

    It is now the policy of asylum systems, created in the name of helping refugees, to daily commit the very same human rights abuses which, according to international law, define the victim as deserving asylum.


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