Staff arrested in asylum seeker row
August 13, 2009
UK security staff taking a failed asylum seeker back to Africa found themselves arrested and thrown into prison.
The two escort staff were detained for two days in Mozambique after local officials refused to take back the woman being deported from Britain.
The incident was revealed in an official report into UK immigration removals.
It said the staff were held when Mozambique authorities disputed the validity of the woman's documentation and demanded to see her passport. But it is understood the two escorts, who work for a private contractor, may have been arrested after refusing to pay a bribe when officials questioned the woman's paperwork.
The report said: “In one case, during the removal of a woman to Mozambique, the escort staff were themselves arrested and detained for two days after the Mozambique authorities disputed the validity of an EU letter, and demanded a passport or letter from the embassy.”
The inspection, by the prisons inspectorate, looked at deportations from at Heathrow Airport and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. The report warned of “inconsistent” treatment of migrants being put on planes home – among them failed asylum seekers, people who have overstayed their visas and foreign national prisoners.
Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, warned of a lack of safeguards in the removals process, including a failure by officials to inform detainees of their rights to complain. In one instance, two women were left exhausted after barely being able to sleep for two days because they were moved repeatedly.
Dame Anne said: “Removal from the UK is an invisible and stressful process. It is essential that it is surrounded by effective safeguards to protect detainees, and that staff carrying out this difficult task are properly trained and supervised.
“This short report found worrying gaps and weaknesses in complaints and monitoring processes. It also found varying practice, with no evidence that the good and thoughtful approach of some staff was mirrored in clear and consistent standards of treatment, support and communication. This heightened the risk of ill-treatment or abuse, and was also likely to lead to failed removals.”
David Wood, Director of the Criminality and Detention Group at the UK Border Agency said: “We expect the highest standards of behaviour from staff and contractors. Anyone involved in the detention and removal of detainees is highly trained. Many detainees refuse to leave the UK voluntarily, even when the courts say they must. In some cases individuals become violent toward themselves, the public or our staff when it is time to go home. Detainee escorts have a very difficult job to do in carrying out what the public expects of the UK Border Agency in enforcing our immigration laws.”