26th January 2012

Commenting on today’s publication of a highly-critical report from the Home Affairs Select Committee on the rules governing enforced removals in the UK, INQUEST’s Co-Director Deborah Coles said:

We welcome parliamentary recognition that restraint during enforced removals is dangerous, unauthorised and potentially lethal. That this committee has condemned the appalling procedures and racist culture surrounding these removals, once again highlights the lack of accountability of UKBA and their private contractors as has been previously documented by a number of NGOs.

The whistleblowers’ allegations of a culture within G4S that ignored health and safety and put lives in jeopardy through excessive and dangerous restraint is shocking but not surprising. The risks of positional asphyxia have been well-known to both G4S and the Home Office since the April 2004 death of 15 year old Gareth Myatt in the Secure Training Centre they ran at Rainsbrook. 

Few changes appear to have been made after the death of Jimmy Mubenga. Surely this must now prompt the government into decisive action.

She added:

That a culture of secrecy pervades the use of force on detainees is underlined by the refusals of UKBA and the Home Office to release the guidance on the use of force and restraint provided to escorting contractors. In rejecting INQUEST’s freedom of information request for this material the government fails to recognise the overwhelming public interest in transparency, accountability and independent scrutiny of restraint techniques and the circumstances in which they are authorised for use.

Jimmy 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.

Notes to editors:

Jimmy Mubenga was a healthy 46 year old Angolan man who died on 12 October 2010 whilst being restrained by three G4S security guards on a flight from Heathrow airport to Angola. Jimmy had lived in the UK for 16 years.  He leaves behind a widow and five children born in the UK aged between one and 17 years. INQUEST has been working closely with the family and their lawyer, Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy solicitors.

In December 2010 INQUEST made a Freedom of Information Act requested for an unredacted copy of the current guidance covering the use of force and restraint provided to UKBA escorting contractors. UKBA and the Home Office refused to disclose the unredacted restraint guidance to INQUEST citing security concerns for non-disclosure.  In September 2011 INQUEST lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office. A decision is awaited.

INQUEST has considerable expertise working around restraint-related deaths in all form of detention including supporting the family of Gareth Myatt, a 15 year old mixed race boy, died in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre. Attention focused on the use of restraint by privately-contracted G4S who ran the centre. Gareth was the first child to have died in a STC and the first to die following the use of force. Custody staff used a method of restraint called the ‘seated double embrace.’  This involved two guards holding down his upper body whilst another guard held Gareth’s head pushing it down towards his knees. He died from asphyxia as a direct result of the restraint used against him. Gareth Myatt’s death highlighted the dangers of restraint in the seated position. It also raised concerns over inter-agency communication and cross-sector learning from the fatal use of certain restraint techniques.