UK deportation contractors criticised

2012-01-26 21:27

London - Britain's Border Agency was criticised on Thursday by a parliamentary scrutiny body over the way detainees are deported, saying private security contractors have used inappropriate force and racist language.

Lawmakers launched an inquiry into the processes for enforced removals following the death of Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga, 46, who collapsed on a plane at London Heathrow Airport while being removed in October 2010.

The report by the Home Affairs Committee did not comment on Mubenga's case, which is still being investigated by the British police.

However, his death sparked the probe into the way that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) handles deportation on flights, which are often handled by private security contractors.

Evidence was found of the "inappropriate use of physical restraint, and the possible use of unauthorised and potentially dangerous restraint techniques", the committee said in its report.

It also cited "weaknesses in passing on information about detainees' medical conditions to all the relevant staff" and the "use of racist language by contractors".

Lawmakers also found that unauthorised and potentially fatal control and restraint techniques, including holding a detainee's head down, may have been used on removal flights, despite UKBA denying such methods were ever used.

Citing claims from detainees, the report said "it is difficult to believe that all these accounts are complete fabrications".

Respect dignity

Committee chair Keith Vaz said: "People who are not entitled to remain in the country must be removed and there may be occasions when it is necessary to use physical force, but this must always be done only when absolutely necessary, and with proper respect for the dignity of the detainee.

"UKBA must not wash its hands of responsibility for detainees just because the service is contracted out.

"The agency must introduce tougher management processes to ensure that contractors are delivering the service that the public expect, and that senior management challenge unacceptable behaviour."

Mubenga's wife Adrienne Makenda Kambana said: "I am still waiting for justice.

"Nothing can bring my husband back now but the system must change to stop this happening to anyone else. I hope the government will listen to what the committee has said and help others."

A UKBA spokesperson said: "We have no evidence contractors use head-down restraints and would take strong action against them if their conduct does not meet our standards."