Spain plans straitjackets for illegal immigrants
By Fiona Govan in Madrid
Last Updated: 2:03am BST 05/09/2007
Illegal immigrants could be forced to wear straitjackets and protective headgear on repatriation flights under new regulations being drawn up by Spain's interior ministry.
Under the new guidelines, police escorting immigrants on flights back to their own countries will be authorised to use the restrictive garments on those who refuse to co-operate and sit quietly in their seats.
The ministry said the measures were being introduced for the protection of those being sent home against their will and were prepared following the death of a Nigerian man during deportation three months ago.
Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, 23, was forcibly put on to a commercial flight on June 7 by police officers who left him tied-up in his seat and with a gag taped over his mouth to prevent him struggling and shouting. Three hours into the flight, the crew discovered he had choked to death.
Police unions have been lobbying for clear rules for officers since before Mr Aikpitanhi's death, claiming that they were ill-prepared for the increasing numbers of deportations being carried out by the government.
So far this year, 4,630 illegal immigrants have been repatriated from Spain on more than a hundred planes chartered by the interior ministry, while a further 3,900 have been flown out on commercial flights.
Under the new rules, deportees will be given a medical check to ensure they are fit to travel before being escorted to the aircraft wearing handcuffs. If they show signs of aggression and seem likely to attempt to injure themselves or others, police officers can further restrain them using a straitjacket and helmet.
The guidelines, leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, explicitly forbid the use of drugs to sedate violent deportees and allow only “proportional force” by police in order to preserve the “honour and dignity” of those being sent home.
Amnesty International has taken a cautious view of the new guidelines and said it would investigate further to ensure the rights of those being repatriated would be fully respected.
“We have seen a rough draft from the interior ministry and there are some worrying aspects,” said Eva Surez-Llanos, head of the Spanish branch of the organisation, yesterday.
“The inclusion of helmets and straitjackets in this protocol could contravene the recommendations of the European Commission of Human Rights.”
But, on the whole, the organisation welcomed the guidelines as “a good opportunity to establish clear instructions to the security services on what force can be used, and in what circumstances, to guarantee the safety of all those concerned,” she said.