Hunger Strike

HMIP publishes deportation ‘concerns’ before Pakistan flight

Prison inspector publishes deportation ‘concerns’ ahead of Pakistan flight tonight

PRESS RELEASE from Corporate Watch, 1 October 2013

Movement for Justice protest outside Home Office today

Movement for Justice protest outside Home Office today

The Chief Inspector of Prisons published today a report raising “a number of concerns about the overseas escorts” employed by the Home Office for deportation flights. The stark warning comes as 30 detainees at Yarl’s Wood are on hunger-strike in protest at a mass deportation to Pakistan this evening. Supporters from the ‘Movement for Justice’ (MFJ) are gathered outside the Home Office this afternoon. A spokesperson from the group said that “five of the eight women facing deportation to Pakistan tonight have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment from male officers in Yarl’s Wood. The attempt to deport the witnesses is part of the Home Office’s desperate attempts to cover up the scandal”.

The Inspection took place during the summer at Brook House, an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) outside Gatwick Airport run by G4S. The overseas escorts are provided by Tascor, another private security company who will be taking the Pakistani women from Yarl’s Wood to an undisclosed airport tonight. In a statement that appears to corroborate the MFJ’s concerns, the prison inspector said “If allegations of assault were made by a detainee during removal, which were supported by medical evidence, the Home Office did not delay removal pending a police investigation”. The inspection team “also saw physical and verbal intimidation of a detainee”, describing how “an escort, taller and bigger than him, came close to him and said that if he had to be placed in handcuffs he would need to explain to the receiving authorities why he did not want to return to their country, implying that he would experience rough treatment”.

The Inspector also said “the practice of taking detainees to the airport as standbys continued and it remained inhumane and unacceptable”, a reference to the practice of ‘reserves’ which the Home Affairs Select Committee has called to be stopped.

ENDS

Prison Inspector quotes taken from para’s 4.32 and 4.34 of http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/immigration-removal-centre-inspections/brook-house/brook-house-2013.pdf

Yarl’s Wood women: “We are not street dogs”

Yarl’s Wood women: “We are not street dogs”

PRESS RELEASE from Corporate Watch

Over 30 women are on hunger strike at the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, with half of them facing deportation to Pakistan tomorrow on a specially chartered flight. Corporate Watch takes a look at the deals between London and Islamabad on security, trade and aid, arguing that asylum-seekers are being treated as bargaining chips in these negotiations.

British Home Secretary Theresa May met her Pakistani counter-part last Tuesday and praised him for  “adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. Photo: BHC Islamabad

British Home Secretary Theresa May met her Pakistani counter-part last Tuesday and praised him for “adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. Photo: BHC Islamabad

The women on hunger strike, many of whom are seeking asylum from gender-based persecution, are detained at Yarl’s Wood – itself the scene of an ongoing investigation into sexual abuse by Serco guards. A statement issued by some of the hunger strikers challenges the legality of “mass deportations”, noting that the women “have not had access to legal aid”, and that there is a “huge waiting list” for lawyers, “due to [a] mass round up” of Pakistani asylum-seekers in preparation for a chartered deportation flight to Pakistan tomorrow, 1 October. Corporate Watch has already conducted extensive legal research into ‘charter flights’, which corroborates many of these women’s claims.

The women’s defiant resistance must be particularly sensitive for the Home Office, because the coalition government had so far got away largely unchallenged with their aggressive increase in deportations to Pakistan which began in November 2011 – it is only now that people’s pain is being heard (read Amina’s story, for example). Pakistani asylum-seekers have become the number one target for the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) secretive charter flights. Since February 2012, the UKBA has hired monthly night-time flights to Pakistan, removing between 50 and 85 people per private plane. It is standard practice for two or three times that number of private security guards to escort the deportees.

This article examines the collusion between the British and Pakistani politicians, who agreed these deportations whilst bargaining over trade, aid and security.

“Unbreakable partnership”

An ominous precursor to this deportation programme can be found in US diplomatic cables, leaked via WikiLeaks. Less than six months before New Labour lost the 2010 general election, the Conservatives’ then Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox met the US Ambassador to Britain. The pair discussed foreign policy towards the Indian sub-continent: “Turning to India, Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s [Her Majesty’s Government’s] foreign relations on the subcontinent are ‘skewed to Pakistan.’ Fox predicted this would not be a factor under a Conservative government, since the Conservatives are ‘less dependent’ than the Labour Party on votes from the British-Pakistani community.” Clearly then, deporting members of that community would not pose a big problem electorally.

Once in office, Home Secretary Theresa May travelled to Pakistan on 24 October 2010. She met Pakistan’s President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani to discuss “a wide range of issues of mutual concern”. These diplomatic discussions continued with then immigration minister Damian Green and cabinet minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi visiting Pakistan between 19 and 23 February 2011. They met with Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who “stated his support for the return of illegal migrants by the UK.”[1]

Prime Minister David Cameron made his first official visit to Pakistan, flanked by Joint Intelligence Committee chiefs, on 5 April 2011 to launch an ‘Enhanced Strategic Dialogue’ involving annual meetings between the country’s leaders and bi-annual talks between foreign ministers. Cameron announced £650 million in “education aid” for Pakistan and set “a target of increasing bilateral trade in goods and services to £2.5 billion a year by 2015.”[2]

It was against this shift in diplomatic relations that the UK’s first deportation charter flight to Pakistan took place on 24 November 2011. The flight returned 23 men and two women. Theresa May arrived in Pakistan on the same day and held a press conference with the Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik, in which she stressed that bilateral ties were “stronger than ever”.

The Tory’s attempt to close the door on migration from Pakistan has coincided with a push for more British investment in Pakistan’s economy, which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office called an “unbreakable partnership”. A press release from February 2012 said that the “UK Trade Minister Lord Green’s recent visit had highlighted the opportunities in retail, energy and mining sectors”.

Only last week, Home Secretary Theresa May visited Pakistan again to “advocate further co-operation between the UK and Pakistan in our efforts to tackle the shared threats posed by terrorism, narcotics trafficking and illegal migration” in her meeting with the new Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. According to the Dawn newspaper, Theresa May “welcomed the commitment that Interior Minister Nisar and the government of Pakistan have shown to adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. It would seem that Pakistan’s access to British aid and investment is partly conditional on accepting deportations from the UK, as well as co-operation on counter-terrorism initiatives.

To follow UK diplomacy in Pakistan, keep an eye on www.flickr.com/photos/ukinpakistan/sets/

References

[1] British High Commission in Islamabad, Press Release, 23 February 2011.

[2] Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, 05 April 2011.

Detainee starts hunger strike after deportation lynching

Detainee starts hunger strike after deportation lynching

[ Press Release 21/03/2012 ]

Injury inflicted in second assault in 2008

A Congolese man has gone on hunger strike to demand his release from an Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport.

Daniel Ngonga Nsevelo, 29, claims he was savagely beaten by private guards aboard a Kenya Airways flight during an abortive attempt to deport him last month (24/02/2012).

“Because he refused to go on the flight they badly beat him, stamping on his whole body and on his head,” said Mr Nsevelo’s sister Isabelle, adding: “His neck’s swollen because they also strangled him. This isn’t the first time.”

Daniel was born in the Congo but fled with his parents to Angola to escape the murderous civil war aged just 3 years old. The family later sought safety from war-torn Angola, fleeing to the UK when Daniel was 8.

He is currently being held in indefinite detention at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center, a high security detention site nicknamed ‘The Cooler’ by some Border Agency officials [1].

Activists from the ‘Stop Deportation Network’ have pledged to support Daniel’s action. “We are inspired by Daniel’s courage to go on hunger strike. Though his protest puts him at risk of further victimization and isolation by the immigration authorities. We demand Daniel’s immediate release and the end to violent deportation,” said Alex Thomlinson, a spokesperson for the group.

The tragic death of fellow asylum seeker, Jimmy Mubenga, at the hands of private guards in October 2010, quickly brought the business of deportation into the public eye [2]. Jimmy and Daniel were in detention together in 2008 and became close friends.

Daniel now fears a similar fate to Mubenga claiming he has been violently assaulted three times during nine separate deportation attempts. On one occasion he says he was even bitten by the escort.

[Ends]

Contact: Stop Deportation Network

Please send messages of support for Daniel to stopdeportation@riseup.net

“Daniel keep it up we are with you in the struggle”

“You are in our prayers”

http://www.stopdeportations.wordpress.com

Notes:

1. Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre was referred to as ‘The Cooler’ in this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046938/Secret-diary-Labour-Immigration-Minister-rails-Human-Rights-Act.html

2. Jimmy Mubenga death: prosecutor weighs up whether to charge G4S security guards http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/16/jimmy-mubenga-decision-due