The lucrative deportation business: private security companies act with impunity

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Jimmy Mubenga vigil 2011

A guest post from NCADC supporter Rosa:

Demonstrators mark the two year anniversary of Jimmy Mubenga’s death at the hands of G4S. As further contracts are awarded by the Home Office to private companies the abuse of immigration detainees by the staff of these private contractors continues.  

Last week marked the two year anniversary of the death of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of G4S security guards. On Friday 12 October family, friends and activists marked the anniversary by holding a demonstration in memory of Jimmy and calling for those that are responsible to be held accountable.

Protesters held placards with slogans saying ‘G4S licence to kill’ and ‘justice for Jimmy, charge G4S’. The group were joined by others highlighting G4S’s involvement in a multitude of human right violations. The protest took place a week since the first ‘No to G4S conference’ in Sheffield where activists discussed practical ways to bring an end to the abuses perpetrated globally by the security giant. See: www.notog4s.blogspot.co.uk

On 12 October 2010 guards working for the private security firm G4S, contracted by the Home Office to ‘escort deportees’, attempted to forcibly remove Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga, via Heathrow airport, on British Airways flight 77 bound for Angola. Jimmy had come to the UK fleeing persecution in his home country. His government believed he was a supporter of the opposition party. He feared the possibility of arrest and the likelihood that he would be killed if retuned. Jimmy was never deported, he collapsed on the plane, was taken to hospital in the UK and later pronounced dead.

Eye witnesses report seeing Jimmy being ‘restrained’ and excessive forced been used.  One witness said that two guards placed him in handcuffs and ‘heavily restrained him’. Another passenger said that he could hear him ‘screaming at the back of the plane‘. He was saying ‘they are going to kill me’.

One of the key witnesses, in a statement only a few days after the incident, said ‘I am pretty sure it will turn out to be asphyxiation. The last thing we heard the man say was that he couldn’t breath. We had three security guards and each one of them looked like they weighed 100kg plus bearing down and holding him down’. In the days after the incident statements released by the Home Office described Jimmy having been ‘taken ill’ on board the flight. G4S used almost identical wording saying Mubenga ‘became unwell’ adding that he later died. Neither G4S or the Home Office made reference to the fact that at the time he collapsed he was been ‘heavily restrained’ by the three G4S guards who were accompanying him. The key witness described the accounts given by both G4S and the Home office as ‘totally false‘.

Jimmy’s wife and five children have spent two years fighting for the truth to be made public. In July this year, perversely, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that no further action would be taken against the G4S guards involved in the brutal attack. The co-director of Inquest, a charity set up to support the families of those that die in custody, described the decision as ‘shameful‘:  ‘Yet again, there is a failure of the state to prosecute following the use of force‘ said Deborah Coles.  The family, friends and supporters are now waiting for an inquest which is likely to take place later this year.

The agony of Jimmy’s family since his death has been prolonged and has been exacerbated by the failure to bring those responsible to account .

What happened to Jimmy Mubenga, and the violence inflicted upon him, is part of a catalogue of incidences that take place unnoticed on a regular basis. ‘Outsourcing Abuse’, the 2008 report by Medical Justice, Birnberg Peirce and NCADC, detailed through personal testimonies abuse by private security firms of vulnerable asylum seekers held indefinitely inside immigration detention centres and during removal.  In this report, alone, over 300 personal accounts of alleged physical assault and racial abuse are recorded. Of the 29 complaints which were detailed in the report it was found that 18 were investigated inadequately or not at all.  The scale of this abuse makes the subsequent Home Affairs Select Committee finding that there isn’t systematic state sponsored abuse, a little surprising.

A few days after the death of Mubenga, G4S lost the bid to renew their contract to ‘escort’ detainees during removal. Yet despite the well recorded catalogue of serious abuse and neglect by GS4 guards against detainees, they are still responsible for running detention centres in the UK, a lucrative business. One of the centres operated by G4S is Ceders, the controversial families unit near Gatwick Airport, where young children are detained prior to forced removal.

The immigration business continues to expand with private companies now taking control of providing some vital services to asylum seekers in the community. Recently the serial abusers, G4S, were rewarded by the Home Office and given the new multi-million pound contract to provide social housing to asylum seekers in Yorkshire. Local organisations and charities have raised concerns about this move. In the words of one Nigerian asylum seeker, ’I don’t want a prison guard to be my landlord’.

The track record of private firms working within the immigration system is not only tarnished by G4S. Widespread human rights abuses are reported in detention centres across the country run by a host of other private profit driven firms including, Reliance, MITE care and custody and Serco.

This year the case of Nelson Babaze surfaced. Nelson had come to the UK to claim asylum stating that he had been tortured in his home country, Uganda. When his claim failed he was deported to Uganda accompanied by Reliance security staff. Nelson reported two separate attacks by the Reliance ’escorts’ in which he was ‘repeatedly punched and kicked’:

They were hitting me and punching me I was so weak…. In the end I could no longer fight or scream and I thought ok that’s it… I was scared for my life.

He was beaten to the point that he thought he was going to die. Sadly Nelsons is just one of the many stories which are currently been reported to campaign groups, charities, the media and the authorities everyday.

I expect that the pending inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga will be a white wash. As with previous instances of abuse, perpetrated by Home Office contracted private security staff, it is unlikely that the truth will come out and those responsible be brought to justice. It is evident, from the increase in the private contracting of immigration services, detention centres and so called ‘welfare provisions‘, that the Home Office wish to further intensify their relationship with profit driven companies- a worrying development. The impunity which these private companies enjoy only serves to further perpetuate the injustices which are already prevalent within our immigration system. A system which seemly operates outside the normal rules of law and normative concepts of humanity.

The immigration business is big money!
Stop the corporations profiting from this inhumane process!

End the injustice! End immigration detention!



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