Justice for Jimmy Mubenga

December 9, 2010 — Comment

Written by Harmit Athwal

Recent news from the campaign for justice for Jimmy Mubenga.

Jimmy died on 12 October 2010 after an attempt to deport him to Angola on a BA flight. According to news reports Jimmy died after allegedly being restrained by three guards from G4S, a company contracted (at the time) by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) as escorts.

Exactly a month after his death over 200 people, led by Jimmy’s family marched from the Angolan Embassy to the Home Office to hand in a letter calling for Jimmy’s family to be given indefinite leave to remain and an inquiry in to the use of force in the deportation process. (Read an IRR News story on the demonstration: ‘Call for justice for Jimmy Mubenga’.)

Jimmy Mubenga laid to rest

On Saturday 4 December, at a church in snowy Ilford, over 200 people gathered for the funeral of Jimmy Mubenga. It took place at the Vine United Reformed Church where the mourners included Jimmy’s wife, Adrienne, and brother, his four sons and young baby daughter, other family members and friends – many wearing white ‘Justice for Jimmy’ T-shirts. Jimmy’s eldest son, 16-year-old Roland, paid a highly emotional tribute to his father, as did a friend who also spoke about his wider family including many brothers and sisters. Following the church service, Jimmy was buried at Manor Park cemetery where other friends and family members paid their respects at the graveside.

Calls for inquiry in to use of force

Earlier in the week, members of Jimmy’s family attended a meeting at the House of Commons hosted by Lord Ramsbotham and jointly called by INQUEST and Medical Justice, to discuss what happened to Jimmy and to ask the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into the ‘issue of deportations and what constitutes proportionate force’ which also examines the use of private companies in the removal process and the training such companies provided in control and restraint; the approved control and restraint methods used by the UKBA and its contractors and the current process for investigating complaints arising during deportation. Campaigners are calling for an inquiry because of fears for further deaths and injuries given that the police investigation will be a lengthy process.

The meeting first heard from Adrienne and then son Roland who spoke movingly of the ‘situation now affecting the family’, that his mum ‘has had to become a father to us’ and finally gave the cri-de-coeur, ‘it is not fair what is happening to our family’.

Other speakers included Dr Frank Arnold who graphically explained the dangers of restraint. (Research published by Medical Justice, Outsourcing Abuse, examined over 300 cases of alleged abuse on deportation, found that a common complaint was obstruction of the airways.) Dr Arnold called for an immediate end to forced deportations and an official inquiry, with the power to call witnesses. A young man from Zimbabwe, who suffered a broken wrist during a deportation, recalled evocatively being taken to the airport by ‘four giants’ and how the incident had left him ‘traumatised’. Deborah Coles from INQUEST told the meeting about previous warnings about the dangers of restraint and for the need to shine a spotlight on the secret world of forced deportations and how INQUEST had made a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the un-redacted use of force manual. Mark Scott, a solicitor from Bhatt Murphy representing Jimmy’s family and Harriet Wistrich from Birnberg Peirce both endorsed calls to end the secrecy around restraint during deportations.

Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, who attended the meeting with MPs, Julian Huppert and David Lammy, spoke about how the Committee was seeking evidence from G4S about how it conducts removals and wanted to hear from people who were on the plane with Jimmy. He reassured the family, ‘we will not just pick up the issue and drop it’. Significantly, he committed himself to taking up the case as soon as the ongoing police inquiries had finished and the CPS had considered whether a prosecution should be brought. He also agreed that the Home Affairs Committee should conduct an investigation into the wider issues of the use of force in the removal process.

Three G4S officers – what are they doing now?

IRR News has recently tried to establish whether the three G4S officers involved in the death of Jimmy Mubenga are still involved in deportations or whether they have been suspended or moved to other duties. After a number of attempts to contact the G4S press office, IRR News was told the G4S had now lost the contract to ‘escort’ detainees and that matters relating to Jimmy’s death were ‘sub judice’. Hence no information could be released about the officers involved.

Related links

Medical Justice

INQUEST

Read an IRR News story: ‘Call for justice for Jimmy Mubenga’

Read about 300 alleged assaults against asylum deportees in Outsourcing Abuse

References: [1] House of Commons / 14 Jan 2010 : Column 1092W.

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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