Nigerian and Jamaican immigration detainees have been subjected to degrading treatment, use of force and racist language from private security officers while being removed from the UK, according to two major reports.
The reports, from the UK’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick, were compiled after inspectors accompanied 104 security officers who escorted 35 detainees to Jamaica, and another 131 security staff who escorted 53 detainees to Lagos, Nigeria and in March and April of this year.
The security guards were employed by private security firm G4S and escorted the deportees on behalf of the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
The Jamaican report said: “Some were placed in handcuffs for long periods despite showing no evidence of resistance or violence. It was particularly concerning that staff had not received full accredited training for use of force in confined spaces.”
Nigerian detainees also suffered similar indignities according to the second report called Detainees Under Escort: Inspection Of Escort And Removals To Nigeria.
The reports said most guards worked sensitively but some had an unacceptable professional attitude that led to a significant number of detainees suffering racist abuse including stereotypes about their nationalities and the use of force that included detainees being handcuffed without reason.
Staff members were generally polite but some made “unprofessional comments (including) swearing and stereotyping of detainees according to nationality,” said the Jamaican report, Detainees Under Escort: Inspection Of Escort And Removals To Jamaica.
It said “…The physical conditions in coaches and on the plane, including food and health care provision, were adequate. However, during flights detainees were denied access to hot drinks, blankets and pillows. They were not allowed to close the door when using the toilet on the coach or plane, which was undignified and embarrassing.”
While many staff members carried out their roles efficiently, the report said with some staff, “force and restraints were in some cases used for longer than necessary and lacked comprehensive and coordinated planning. Escorts took hold of detainees’ arms during movements between vehicles and buildings, whether or not this was justified by individual risk or the physical security of the area, and this unnecessarily raised tensions.”
The Nigerian report found that Nigerian detainees who were at risk of self-harm were not always monitored in accordance with their care plans and staff often spoke to them in a demeaning manner.
“Staff were generally courteous and positive in their dealings with detainees but some spoke to them in patronising terms even refering to detainees as ni**ers. In some cases, extremely offensive and wholly inappropriate language was used to describe detainees, including demeaning racist terms. A man who could not walk was carried bodily to a van and to a toilet, with little regard for his dignity. There was no individual risk assessment to show why he could not use his crutches.”
The report also said that detainees without local family contacts were left without help after arriving in Nigeria while in one incident, “the conduct of UK immigration staff towards detainees reluctant to leave the aircraft was aggressive and included physical assault.”
The reports follow the public outcry that came after the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being restrained on a British Airways plane deporting him to Angola last year.
Hardwick said UKBA should offer greater assistance to detainees who had no local support. “The vulnerability of detainees during the process of removal is not to be taken so lightly, and the behaviour of all staff representing UK authorities should reflect better training and higher standards. We also need to call on UKBA to ensure that detainees are treated decently at all times, with no physical or verbal abuse, throughout their journey and when they arrive.”