TB kills ex-Colnbrook detainee

TB kills ex-Colnbrook detainee


Written by: Harmit Athwal

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) has recently published a report into the death of a Zimbabwean man in September 2008 who had been released from Colnbrook immigration removal centre (IRC) a few weeks before his death.

The unnamed 32-year-old Zimbabwean man came to the UK in 2002 on a visitors visa which he overstayed. In 2004, the man was sentenced to forty months in prison and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register. On 26 November 2006, on being released from Littlehey prison, the man was detained under immigration powers for deportation to Zimbabwe and transferred to Colnbrook, the maximum secure IRC in west London, where he was held for just over two years, until shortly before his death in September 2008.

On 22 July 2008, he was temporarily released on licence from Colnbrook following an Appeals Tribunal hearing. The man was placed in National Asylum Support Service (NASS) accommodation where, on 1 September a neighbour noticed the man’s flat door was open and the television on and found the man unconscious. An ambulance arrived at the scene and he was pronounced dead. A post mortem revealed the cause of death as tuberculosis (TB) which, being deemed a natural cause meant no inquest was held in to his death.

The PPO investigated the death and recently published a report, Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man in September 2008 (the man had been released on temporary licence from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre). It found that prior to his release from Colnbrook the man had told staff, in May 2008, that he was losing weight. He had apparently initially refused medication and tests. However, in June, he agreed to an x-ray and was admitted to hospital suffering from TB. He spent two days in Hillingdon hospital isolation unit before being sent back to the healthcare wing at Colnbrook where he also remained in isolation. In mid July he was sent back to a normal wing after it was found that he was no longer infectious. The man was then released on bail six days later. On his release, he was allocated housing by NASS and ordered to report twice a week. Information from the coroner suggested that he had been trying to register with a doctor following his release from Colnbrook but had been unsuccessful.

The PPO made four recommendations following the death, two in relation to the medical needs of detainees and two in relation to public protection. The two public protection recommendations were accepted, however the recommendations in relation to accessing healthcare for asylum seekers were not. The PPO found that ‘the Department of Health should review its policy regarding access by detainees, particularly those with a notifiable disease, to medical care in the community’ while also stating that the ‘the state has a duty of care to those it is releasing from immigration detention.’ The PPO was also critical of lack of information provided to NASS caseworkers who were unaware of the man’s medical condition.

Related links

Download a copy of the PPO report into the death at Colnbrook in September 2008 (pdf file, 48kb)

Read the IRR’s factfiles on the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants

Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man in September 2008 (the man had been released on temporary licence from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, Prisons and Probation Service Ombudsman, 2009.

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

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