"Outsourcing Abuse" inquiry: Medical Justice press release

outsourcing-abuseMedical Justice Press release on the inquiry into the report “Outsourcing Abuse”, which was published in 2008 by Birnberg Peirce & Partners, Medical Justice and NCADC.

“UKBA are under so much pressure at the moment. There has been almost constant media coverage for months of a wide number of organsiations expressing concern about conditions in detention and during removals. There have been revelations about inappropriate methods used by UKBA case-workers in determining asylum claims.  Prominent actors, authors and religious leaders as well as articles in tabloid newspapers have called for an end to the detention of children.  Over 30 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a recent disturbance at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre for women, children and families. The BBC World Service recently revealed that at least £2m been paid out in compensation claims regarding detention.  It seems that UKBA are under attack about detention from many sides.”

We welcome the publication of Baroness O’Loan’s detailed report into the allegations raised by us in the dossier presented to the Home Secretary in 2008.

Although there is no finding of “systemic abuse”, we consider the work undertaken in bringing so many serious allegation of abuse to the attention of the public has been vindicated.  There are many alarming findings in relation to both the complaints process, the retention of paperwork by UKBA and the application of the use of force in immigration detention.  The report makes 22 recommendations for change.  In the light of this it is alarming that, Lin Homer, the Chief Executive of UKBA, can imply in her foreward that our motivation in reporting on allegations of abuse was to “damage the reputation of our contractors”, as distinct from highlighting alarming trends.

“Baroness O’Loan has recognised that use of control and restraint and the use of handcuffs on this very vulnerable group of detainees has often been disproportionate, unnecessary and inappropriate.  What is often forgotten is that many in immigration detention are survivors of horrific violence, torture and abuse who, as a result may be suicidal or suffer from mental illness.  The use of force on such people can cause long lasting damage as we have been able to prove on many occasions where civil claims have been brought and settled”. Harriet Wistrich, Birnberg Peirce & Partners

“As we expected, Baroness O’Loan found that in the majority of cases in which complaints were made, previous investigations were inadequate or not done.  She said that “On occasion there quite simply had been a failure to deal properly with the complaints” which is, sadly, a familiar scenario to us.” NCADC spokesperson

“I am particularly perturbed about her concerns about the improper use of handcuffs, because I have examined the resulting injuries, which can be serious and long-lasting. I am also concerned that I have never (in over ten cases) seen a competent examination of these injuries by a doctor working in a detention centre. This violates good medical practice and UK BA policy.” Dr Frank Arnold, Clinical Advisor, Medical Justice

“At least 16 of the 46 claimants whose cases were highlighted in Outsourcing Abuse now have leave to remain in the UK, begging the question why they were ever detained in the first place”. Emma Ginn, Medical Justice

Suren Khachatryan claims he was kicked and stamped on during at attempt to remove him.  He suffered a collapsed lung.  Baronees O’Loan found that there had been no proper investigation of Mr Khachatryan’s complaint or whether the force used against him was lawful, necessary or proportionate.

“‘I am scared to say too much in response to this in case it [the assault] happens again. I am glad that this independent report notes there was no proper investigation. I am still feeling the consequences of the assault. I still have therapy. It has affected me. I am still receiving treatment five years later. I am very disappointed the government did not do their job properly in the first place. If they do want to re-investigate this again though I am willing to cooperate with them and provide them with what they need.” Suren Khachatryan

We are unsure why the report says that our dossier did not contain 300 allegations – we said in Outsourcing Abuse that we “present findings from our dossier that has reached nearly 300 cases”.  The tables on page 53 of Outsourcing Abuse give details of the cases – 289 of them to be exact.  In Outsourcing Abuse we stated it was based on the findings of those cases and that we included detailed case-studies where we had the claimant’s permission to do so (48 case-studies relating to 46 individuals).

Outsourcing Abuse can be downloaded at www.medicaljustice.org.uk

Notes

On 18th July 2008 UKBA undertook to “ensure an appropriate and thorough investigation is conducted into each and every case identified”.  A number of the 46 people identified in Outsourcing Abuse were not contacted by UKBA since we published the report to see if they had any further statement or evidence to submit for an investigation ; we are concerned how adequate the UKBA (re)investigation could have been.

Although the recent style of the UK Borders Agency seems to be to traduce those who bring unpleasant facts to public attention, we feel vindicated having published “Outsourcing Abuse”.  The rate of assault allegations appears to have reduced notably since the date we published the report, though the rate of allegations remain of concern.

We continue to receive a growing number of allegations of other forms of abuse in detention, including inadequate healthcare provision.

The government is driven by seemingly arbitrary targets on deportation.  We fear this may lead to further abuse. In 2008 they announced a near doubling of detention capacity.  In January 2010 they revealed they are discussing the re-designating of two prisons as immigration removal centres.

Other organisations have expressed concerns about the use of force during removals ; HM Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) published a report in August 2009 which echoed many of our findings ; alleged abusive treatment, detainees self-harming, a lack of proper medical attention, aggressiveness of guards, and a “swift resort” to use of force, that in many cases the use of force led to abandonment of a removal and heightened the risk of ill-treatment or abuse. HMIP found that the “posturing and interference” by escorts appeared to have led even to the failure of the removal of a number of detainees who were not previously disputing their removal.

Home Office’s own Complaints Audit Committee (CAC) last report (November 2008) before it was disbanded stated that there were “endemic and enlarging problems” in misconduct investigations and “indications of rising discontent and continuing failures”. The CAC revealed that 79% of serious misconduct complainants were not interviewed, 65% of responses to them were not defensible and 27% took over 1 year.

Another reason why UKBA are under so much pressure at the moment is that there has been almost constant media coverage for months of a wide number of organsiations expressing concern about conditions in detention and during removals ; the Royal Colleges of Paediatricians, Psychiatrists and General Practitioners, the Children’s Commissioner, and Human Rights Watch to name a few.  There have been revelations about inappropriate methods used by UKBA case-workers in determining asylum claims.  Prominent actors, authors and religious leaders as well as articles in tabloid newspapers have called for an end to the detention of children.  Over 30 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a recent disturbance at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre for women, children and families. The BBC World Service recently revealed that at least £2m been paid out in compensation claims regarding detention.  It seems that UKBA are under attack about detention from many sides.

We were not notified by UKBA of publication of the inquiry. We consider it is improper and discourteous that the press were invited to a briefing about the inquiry before we, the authors of the dossier, were provided with the report. The complainants, whose cases are featured in the report, were similarly excluded.

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