The Guardian reported last week that whistleblowers within G4S, the private company contracted to carry out forced deportations, say that staff warned management of inappropriate use of force. Yet, after the death in October 2010 of a deportee who had been restrained and complained he couldn’t breathe, a top G4S manager claimed he was ‘not aware’ of any staff concerns.
In response to our 2008 Outsourcing Abuse dossier of nearly 300 assault complaints, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) Chief Executive implied that our motivation was to ‘damage the reputation of our contractors’ and trashed our claims of widespread abuse while, according to the Guardian, they knew of G4S staff allegations. Our warnings were not exaggerated; a man later died. Their apparent disregard and lack of control was noted in 2009 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons who found UKBA contract monitors did not work to any clear criteria and sometimes ‘appeared to be part of the escort team’ that they were meant to be monitoring.
UKBA have been aware of allegations of excess violence and abuse by escorts all along through their own complaints procedure and legal challenges by deportees. In its last report, the Home Office’s own Complaints Audit Committee reported ‘endemic and enlarging problems’ in misconduct investigations, that 79 per cent of serious misconduct complainants were not interviewed, and that 65 per cent of responses to them were not defensible.
Doctors associated with Medical Justice have examined dozens of detainees who have suffered injuries consistent with restricted breathing during failed deportation attempts. Forty-two cases in Outsourcing Abuse included restriction of detainees’ breathing. Eighteen of these detainees were identified in the report and data from all forty-two cases contributed to the findings.
The UKBA response to most assault allegations we made was that injuries were regrettable, but the force used was in accordance with approved Control & Restraint (C&R) methods, yet the whistleblowers reveal a frequent failure to use approved C&R methods. Many allege assault after a deportation is aborted, when escorts say they lost money as a result. Whistleblowers have confirmed the suspected motives for the gratuitous assaults complained of.
The whistleblowers’ evidence should trigger a further review of some of the complaints in our dossier. A parliamentary committee should conduct an inquiry into the use of force in the deportation process. As there is no evidence that UKBA have made any meaningful changes towards avoiding another death the use of force should be suspended meanwhile.
Emma Ginn, Co-ordinator, Medical Justice
Dr Frank Arnold, Clinical Advisor to Medical Justice
Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce & Partners Solicitors
Authors of Outsourcing Abuse: The use and misuse of state-sanctioned force during the detention and removal of asylum seekers, which can be downloaded here (pdf file, 940kb).
Read about Outsourcing Abuse