Concerns raised over removal of detainees

Reports by chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick have voiced concerns over the escorted removal of some 88 detainees to Nigeria and Jamaica.

The reports said most escorts dealt sensitively with detainees, but some were "unacceptably unprofessional".

They said escorts generally acted calmly and professionally but some used highly offensive and sometimes racist language between themselves.

Inspectors accompanied a removal of 35 detainees to Kingston and 53 to Lagos.

They also reviewed records of previous flights.

Aircraft chartered by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) were contracted to carry out the removals of the 88 detainees, with G4S carrying out the removals.

The entire removal process was inspected from the point at which detainees were collected from immigration removal centres, to the end of the journey to the destination country.

The reports concluded that collecting detainees from immigration removal centres and transporting them to the airport was generally well organised and that escorts generally dealt sensitively with the inevitable stresses and complications that arose.

They also said that where there was full use of control and restraint, inspectors saw generally good management and that escorts generally performed their duties in a calm and professional manner.

But the reports added:

  • Inspectors said they were concerned to find that in some cases, staff were not properly coordinated during potential and actual incidents which raised tensions;
  • There is currently no accredited training to support staff who have to use force in confined spaces, such as on an aircraft;
  • Some staff used highly offensive and sometimes racist language between themselves;
  • Escorts mocked a detainee's south London accent and laughed at him when he was upset, which "exacerbated an already difficult situation";
  • Staff numbers seemed excessive at times and the report recommends staff during the process of leaving the centres where detainees were being held should be kept to a minimum so that detainees had time to deal with what was happening;
  • In Lagos, there were no arrangements to provide any advice or support to detainees who did not have family or other contacts;
  • Advice on resettlement support was not offered until four hours into the flight to Jamaica.

Mr Hardwick said: "Escorted removals are a difficult and distressing process.

"On these inspections, most escorts, most of the time, performed their duties well and dealt sensitively with the needs of individual detainees.

"However, tensions were sometimes raised when force or restraint was used unnecessarily and some staff demonstrated an unacceptably unprofessional attitude."

The first inspection was carried out from 24-25 March 2011 where inspectors accompanied a charter flight removal of 35 detainees to Jamaica.

The second inspection took place on 20-21 April 2011, when inspectors accompanied a charter flight removal of 53 detainees to Lagos, Nigeria.

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