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Independent Monitoring Board release critical report on charter flight removals


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The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has published its annual review of the treatment of returnees during charter flights. It reported four headline concerns:

  1. firstly, that force and restraint had been used without due checks and for too long;
  2. secondly, that escorts employed by contractors were in charge of selecting which returnees may speak to the Chief Immigration Officer for advice on their legal rights during the flight, and that on one flight the advice itself was delegated to the escorts;
  3. thirdly that returnees were taken to Stansted Airport at night on certain flights; and
  4. finally that those who wished to use the toilet either on the coach or the aeroplane could not do so in privacy, with the door being held ajar.

The IMB reported that escorts employed by the contractor, Tascor, appeared to be all too willing to use force and apply restraint without adequate checks that the individual concerned actually presented a risk.

The CFMT [Charter Flight Monitoring Team] is concerned that a returnee who presented for discharge, and made a mild statement that he was not happy to go, was put into a WRB [waist restraint belt] with usually

  • no time spent first trying to talk this through with the returnee
  • no attempt made first to understand what impact this statement might have on the returnee’s future behaviour.

Another cause for serious concern was that it was at the sole discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer on board the flight, the only person with the professional training to advise on returnees’ legal rights, to decide whether to give that advice. Furthermore, the discretion to decide who should see the Chief Immigration Officer was delegated to the escorts, resulting in potential unfairness.

But that is not all: on one flight, to Jamaica, the entire responsibility for advising returnees on their rights was delegated to the escorts, who did not have the appropriate training to do this.

Responsibility for advising returnees on their legal rights and related likely concerns was devolved to the escorts on the Jamaica flight. This was wholly inappropriate. The escorts were given the Immigration Enforcement briefing document “Guidance for escorts on charter flights”.

A couple of the escorts told the CFMT they were unhappy with the responsibility thrust on them.

The scheduling of some of the flights, to Tirana and Kingston, resulted in individuals returning at night, which naturally makes things tougher for the individuals concerned. This adds to the difficulty their lawyers may face in effectively conducting last minute challenges.

The IMB slammed the use of supervision on toilets both in coaches and on the plane itself. This entails the door being kept ajar while an escort accompanies the returnee (female escorts with female returnees). While there may be good reason to accompany certain isolated individuals, to have this as a general rule is invasive.

Returnees did not have privacy to use the WC on the coach or the aircraft lavatories. The door was held ajar. This is demeaning.

Female returnees’ use of the WC on the coach or the lavatory on the aircraft was supervised by a female escort. The lack of privacy of use is particularly demeaning for women.

The annual review makes several further points which are not covered in this post: one example is that returnees are not routinely given the chance to use the toilet before they depart from their IRC, and then are often penned in coaches for hours. It is worth a read in full, here.

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Paul Erdunast

Paul Erdunast is a barrister at Temple Garden Chambers in London (https://tgchambers.com/member-profile/paul-erdunast/). Prior to this he was Legal and Parliamentary Officer at ILPA, where he delivered immigration law training and spoke at conferences. In previous jobs he lectured on asylum law and provided EU migrants with immigration advice.