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Disproportionate force and offensive language used in removals


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thumbnail_npm-ar-report-12-13-web.pdfA new official report on Monitoring Places of Detention by an independent governmental monitoring body raises serious concerns about the immigration enforcement process. The private security contractors responsible are criticised for disproportionate use of force and restraint, unprofessional behaviour and use of ‘very offensive language’ in front of immigration detainees and others (see page 21):

Findings suggested that on the whole, escort procedures were well organised and escorts dealt with detainees sensitively and effectively. However, concerns were raised that not enough was done to reduce stress for detainees, that there was disproportionate use of force and restraint, and examples of unprofessional behaviour by escorts who used very offensive language in front of detainees and others. Concerns about detainees experiencing aggressive behaviour by home officials on arrival in their destination country, as well as the lack of information on their home country to help prepare for return, were also expressed. [Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons] was also concerned that there were no recognised safe procedures for the use of restraint in the confined spaces of an aircraft.

Similarly to HMIP, [Independent Monitoring Boards] reported examples of offensive language being used in front of detainees. They also found that the time taken between the detainee being discharged from the immigration removal centre and boarding their aircraft was excessive. However, on a more positive note, they observed a reasonably well-run operation, with a lot of attention being paid to detainees and their concerns, by both the immigration team and the overseas escort contractor.

The report is the fourth annual report by the UK’s National Preventative Mechanism. This reporting is carried out under the UK’s treaty obligations under the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). The report covers all places of detention, not just immigration detention.

A number of recommendations on immigration enforcement and detention are made. These seem to be the same recommendations that have been made previously. Will they ever be implemented effectively? Probably not.

Enforcing immigration control is an inherently brutal and inhumane process. The victims of that process have been subjected to a long running campaign of de-humanisation by Government and media. The people attracted to immigration enforcement work or willing to do it will always include some who will behave in an abusive manner.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


One Response

  1. Not yet read the full report but if it was the IMB one, the escorts would have been fully aware that the removal was going to be monitored. In that case a big allowance should also be made for the worse behaviour that happens when it is unobserved by an independent monitor. A police officer investigating allegations of extreme violence by escorts in one case said to me that it would be far better for everyone if all removals were routinely filmed.