Another death at Harmondsworth

November 8, 2012 — News

Written by Harmit Athwal

On 30 October, a man was found dead at Harmondsworth removal centre in west London.

The deceased has been named as 31-year-old Prince Kwabena Fosu from Ghana. The Home Office released a one-sentence statement and refused to answer any questions: ‘This death is being investigated so it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage. We will work with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman during the investigation.’ A post mortem has found no evidence of violence, restraint or suicide.

However, Ghanaian detainees put out a statement following the death that made a number of serious allegations about what happened to Prince Ofosu and about the poor treatment of others at the centre. They allege that guards at the centre restrained Prince while in the ‘block’ (segregation unit) and that he had been held in his cell without heating and naked. (Read the statement in full here.)

Campaigners protest

A week after the death, campaigners held a ‘noise’ protest outside the centre, making as much sound as possible with megaphones, whistles and horns, so that detainees in the centre could hear them. According to a report on Indymedia ‘Detainees piled up at the windows, fists were waving and banging at the impermeable glass. Our cries of “freedom, azadi, hurriya, liberte!” were echoed on the inside as call-and-response chants erupted into a wave of whistles and chanting across the blocks. Detainees flooded the exercise yard and chanted some more until they were moved by guards.’

GEO Group Limited – another operator

Harmondsworth is managed by the GEO Group Limited which also runs the Dungavel centre in Scotland and has the contract for prison escorting and custody services in Wales and England (except London and the East of England). Its website  claims it to be ‘one of the leading private custodial and related services companies in the world with 60 custodial facilities located in Europe, America, Australia, and South Africa under management. Our operations make us the largest group operating internationally in the field of custody, care and control.’

In May 2012, staff at the centre won awards in three categories at the UK Border Agency’s first supplier awards ‘designed to recognise the significant contribution made by front-line staff to its detention and escorting business’.[1] But this is not the first time that detainees have complained about the treatment they receive from some of its employees. Recently, in north America, 428 detainees (over half those) held at the Broward Transitional Center run by GEO Inc., published a letter demanding that John Morton the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  ‘initiate an investigation on the policies and procedures being followed by ICE, Border Patrol, local police and other enforcement agencies involved in the detention, prosecution and removal of immigrants in South Florida and also on The GEO Group Inc.’ (Read the letter: ‘428 Detainees Sign Letter From Detention Demanding Review of Broward’.)

Other such deaths involving  Harmondsworth

It is also of concern that six other people have died at Harmondsworth since 1989:

  • Bereket Yohannes (19/1/06): A 26-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker was found hanged in a shower block at Harmondsworth. An inquest in March 2007 was told how he had previously tried to take his own life while he was held at Dover removal centre a month prior to his death. It found that he took his own life.
  • Sergey Baranyuk (19/7/04): A 31-year-old Ukrainian asylum seeker was found hanged in Harmondsworth. His death sparked a night of disturbances and led to all the detainees being transferred to prisons and other detention centres. An inquest heard that Sergey arrived in the UK in May 2004 and claimed asylum, his claim was ‘fast-tracked’ and he was taken to Oakington. He then withdrew his asylum claim and agreed to voluntary removal. He was then moved to Harmondsworth where he was essentially lost in the system until he took his own life. On the day he was recorded on CCTV at 10.50am heading towards a shower room. His body was not found until 7.50pm, nine hours after he was last seen alive. The inquest jury in 2006 delivered a unanimous verdict that Sergey Baranyuk ‘took his own life’. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Sergey Baranyuk forgotten at Harmondsworth’)
  • Olga Blaskevica (7/5/03): A 29-year-old Latvian woman was murdered by her partner, Olegs Pavlos in the family holding area at Harmondsworth just hours before the pair were due to be deported from Britain. In June 2004, Pavlos denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was found to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
  • Robertas Grabys (24/1/00): A 49-year-old Lithuanian asylum seeker was found hanged in Harmondsworth on the day he was due to be deported. A report into his death criticised the private company that was in charge of Harmondsworth at the time (Burns International). In April 2003, an internal Home Office inquiry found that Burns International did not have a formal policy to prevent suicides and that there was insufficient care. An inquest recorded an open verdict.
  • Kimpua Nsimba (15/6/90): A 24-year-old Zairean asylum seeker was found hanged in Harmondsworth where no one had spoken to him in over four days. An inquest recorded a suicide verdict.
  • Siho Iyugiven (5/10/89): A 27-year-old Kurdish refugee died from burns at Harmondsworth where he had been detained pending removal after political asylum was refused. He and his cellmate went on hunger strike, barricaded themselves in and set bedding alight as a protest. Smoke detectors were not working, few fire extinguishers worked and there were no sprinklers. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

Three more asylum seekers died shortly after being held at Harmondsworth, and two of these deaths at Colnbrook in July last year occurred soon after the men were transferred from Harmondsworth where the care they received has been called into question:

  • Brian Dalrymple (31/7/11): A 31-year-old American with significant health problems died in Colnbrook (next door to Harmondsworth) a few days after being moved. The treatment that he received while he was held at Harmondsworth will be examined at the inquest in to his death in 2013.
  • Muhammad Shukat (2/7/12): A 47-year-old Pakistani man died after suffering a heart attack in Colnbrook. In May 2012, an inquest jury recorded a highly critical verdict that found that neglect contributed to his death.[2] According to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) report into his death, he was transferred from Brook House (near Gatwick) to Harmondsworth on 26 May. He was held at Harmondsworth for nearly a month, during which time he withdrew his claim for asylum and had asked for assisted voluntary return. He arrived at Colnbrook on 29 June (at 1am in the morning) and died just a few days later. While he was held at Harmondsworth he made a complaint about the healthcare at the centre that was not followed up, staff at the healthcare unit also failed to obtain his medical records despite him signing a release form. These records ‘could have provided significant information that could have assisted healthcare staff [at Colnbrook] on the morning he died.’ The PPO made a number of recommendations following its investigation into Muhammad Shukat’s care at Harmondsworth, in relation to healthcare and the complaints process at Harmondsworth (numerous other recommendations were made in relation to the care that he received at Colnbrook too).[3]
  • Tran Quang Tung (27/7/04): A 35-year-old Vietnamese asylum seeker was found hanged in Dungavel in Scotland days after being transferred with fifty-nine others from Harmondsworth after the disturbance in July 2004 that erupted after the death of Sergey Baranyuk.

Related links

Demotix picture story on demo outside Harmondsworth

Ghanaian Detainees Statement – Death of Prince Ofosu

IRR report documenting the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants: Driven to Desperate Measures: 2006-2010 (pdf file, 432kb)

IRR report documenting the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants: Driven to Desperate Measures: 1989-2006 (pdf file, 404kb)

INQUEST

London No Borders

 

[1]GEO staff top the UK Border Agency supplier awards’, GEO website. [2] Diane Taylor, ‘Detention centre failures contributed to death of asylum seeker, inquest finds’, Guardian, 25 May 2012. [3]  ‘Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre in July 2011, Report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales’, June 2012.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Comments

November 13, 2012
suman limbu:

the office in harmondsworth treat us like a animal .and when we deny for any thing then they get violance and try to hit .and even here eu citizen are deported .and when they deport it is totally forcefully ,some time hiting drugs and make unconcious ,and take them .and today on 11 november night in f wings a guy was suffering a lots he had a operation ,they the nurse came and give him paracetamol ,he is not even gating his regular medication ,and when some we try to explain what is the problem when we r suffering they don,t want to listen …and luck us ..so that we can not talk to them again .. r we a animal ,the guy from afganistan who had claimed asylum they dinied and send him to his home country ,and 3 days after his arival in afganistan he was shot dead ,people put aaylum when there life is in risk but they the harmondsworth office ,had talk to me and said we will deport u all foreigner ,coz we r working and sending money to back home and making our country poor..we work hard for the money what we do is that this country prople concern or what ?
i was send to my country 2 times and bring me back coz i dont have the citizen of that country and i am now a british but they want to deport me coz i was born there and had few minor crimal record . i was just a heroin user and now still i am in medication for methadone …what is that for when they want to deport me then why should i be good .when i dont have no body there in my borth country ..my whole family is here for what ….i am now getting mental coz i is now 6 months that i am here

November 15, 2012
Dav:

the guy to died in harm0ndsworth named prince who was from ghana .died coz he was not given cloth ,he was put nacket in the lock room called block.where there was no hiter and it was cold and had not given food for 2 weeks because he had complained afout the food .and after puting in block for more than 24 hrs the officer specially he is a manager of f wing named jim hit him so bad he was bleading and then told him to changed the blooded cloth fast so that other cannot see the blood .and after half hour later he fell down but they did not send him to hospital quick and he died,and still now the jim is here after his vacation for 2 weeks and why there is no any action against him but send him to holiday so that the matters get silence and had heard prison authority is investing but now we have not heard any action is done against jim and other officer who r involved in killing .but now also if any body make voice against them and denied to go they are forced with using drugs or putted to block fo 96hrs and this geo company is killing people ,if any body comes to look that day the guys who r making voice are lock so that he canot talk .toay is 15 of november again 2 more is sent to block saying he complained …if he survive we will say he is lucky other wise unlucky now uk is one of the country who is killing foreigner and no human right for them for british guys there is why not for us r we animal here for british animal also there is animal right not for foreigner…

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