Manchester: death in immigration detention
July 31, 2013 — News
Written by Harmit Athwal
Tahir Mehmood, a 43-year-old Pakistani man, has died in Pennine House, a short-term holding facility near Manchester airport.
A typically terse statement from the Home Office reveals: ‘A 43-year-old man from Pakistan died in Pennine House short term holding facility and his death has been reported to the police and the coroner. The family of the deceased have been informed and our thoughts are with the family following this sad news.’
The Greater Manchester Police press release went a little further: ‘At about 5.20pm on Friday 26 July 2013 police were called to Pennine House, at Manchester Airport. On arrival officers were informed a 43-year-old man had suffered a medical episode and had been treated by medics. Sadly he had died at the scene. A Home Office post mortem examination has been carried out and the police are investigating the circumstances of the death on behalf of Her Majesty’s coroner.’
Manchester Coroner’s court informed IRR News that Tahir ‘passed away’ at the centre and that a post mortem has been carried out but a cause of death had not yet been established.
As far as the IRR is aware, this is the first death that has occurred at a ‘short-term holding centre’, where people are obviously meant to be detained only for short periods.
The suggestion that the death might be the result of a ‘medical episode’ is part of a pattern. Most recently, at the end of March, another Pakistani man, 52-year-old Khalid Shahzad, died (unaccompanied) on a train to the northwest hours after he was released on medical grounds from Colnbrook. And in July 2011, yet another Pakistani man, Muhammad Shukat, died after suffering a heart attack in Colnbrook. In May 2012, an inquest jury recorded a highly critical verdict that found neglect had contributed to his death. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) made a number of recommendations in relation to healthcare following its investigation into his care at two detention centres (Harmondsworth and Colnbrook).
Pennine House where Tahir died is a 32-bed centre currently operated by Tascor,. An inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in March 2010, when the centre was run by G4S, found that: ‘Detainees had access to 24-hour healthcare, provided by a band eight full-time senior nurse supported by five part-time band six nurses. They worked in a dedicated healthcare room that was accessible by all staff. Four of the nurses were dual qualified in mental health and general nursing, and the lead nurse was a specialist practitioner in community nursing.‘ However the most recent inspection, in October 2011, made few findings in relation to health care at the centre, mentioning only a ‘24-hour health care team’ and ‘on-site health services staff’. It did not indicate how many were part of such a team nor how qualified they were.
Read an IRR News story: ‘Deaths in immigration detention on the increase?‘
Read an IRR report: Driven to desperate measures 2006-2010 (pdf file, 432kb).
Read an IRR report: Driven to desperate measures 1989-2006 (pdf file, 401kb).
 Home Office Press Office email (29 July 2013).  HM Coroner's Office (Manchester Central District) email (31 July 2013).  Eric Allison, ‘Asylum seeker death investigated by Home Office amid healthcare concerns’, Guardian (14 April 2013).  Diane Taylor, ‘Detention centre failures contributed to death of asylum seeker, inquest finds’, Guardian (25 May 2012).  In August 2012, Reliance Secure Task Management (RSTM) and Reliance Medical services (RSM) were acquired by Capita and in January 2013, the companies were renamed as Tascor.  Report on an unannounced follow-up inspection of the residential short-term holding facility at Pennine House (2–3 March 2010), HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, download it here (pdf file, 96kb). G4s run centres have not been without criticism, see a report on the fire at Yarl's Wood which took place in 2002, see also an Open Democracy report on G4S activities in the detention estate.  Report on an unannounced inspection of the short-term holding facility at Pennine House Manchester Airport (4 – 5 October 2011), HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, download it here (pdf file, 56kb).
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.