Inquest rules asylum seeker died from natural causes at Haslar
July 28, 2005
Written by Harmit Athwal
On 8 July 2005, the inquest into the death of Kabeya Dimuka Bijoux, at Haslar removal centre on 1 May 2004, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes despite concerns raised that his death might have been connected to injuries sustained at another immigration centre.
Bijoux (as he is known to his family), an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was held at the centre for nearly two months and died after collapsing while exercising on a treadmill. Staff attempted to resuscitate him but failed and he was pronounced dead in the gym. His death at Haslar, which is run by the Prison Service under Immigration Detention Centre rules on behalf of the Immigration Service as a removal centre, is the second death at the centre. On 31 January 2003, 42-year-old Mikhail Bognarchuk, a Ukrainian asylum seeker, was found hanged by his shoelaces in a toilet.
After Bijoux’s death, a local Portsmouth newspaper carried a report quoting a friend of the deceased alleging that Bijoux had died from injuries sustained two months earlier when police and officials from Reliance House immigration centre in Liverpool allegedly attacked him. (see Portsmouth News)
Immigration, and staff from the private security company Global Solutions Ltd, (who escort and transfer immigration detainees across the country) at Reliance House immigration centre in Liverpool and police officers gave evidence to the inquest. It was told that Bijoux had originally gone to the centre to collect his Application Registration card (ARC) and was detained for deportation, as it had come to light that he had an outstanding asylum claim in France. Whilst detaining Bijoux, immigration officials reported that he became distressed and began cutting himself with a piece of a broken ashtray. Immigration officers felt the situation was beyond their control and called the police, who ‘subdued’ Bijoux using CS spray – which was sprayed in two short bursts. Bijoux dropped the shard of the ashtray and was then handcuffed. He was taken outside to get some air and then transferred to a police station where he saw a doctor and was held overnight. The next day Bijoux was transferred to a holding centre near London and the following day he was transferred to Haslar to await deportation, where he claimed to friends that he had been assaulted by police and immigration officers in Liverpool. Dr Tim Bushell, who examined Bijoux after he arrived at Haslar, told IRR news that: ‘Bijoux had a small right-angled scar on his forehead, a healed cut, which was consistent with a blow from the corner of an ashtray, coming from the left side, and which could therefore have been caused by the assault he alleged.’
The post mortem was unable to determine the cause of death although the pathologist was able to state at the inquest that there were no signs of disease or injury. When questioned further he said that the death was most probably caused by an ‘electrical’ fault in Bijoux’s heart rhythm (or arrhythmia) – from which thirty-forty people die each year. The jury found that there was no causal connection between the incident at Liverpool and Bijoux’s death.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
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