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[10. Nov 2012]

Another death at Harmondsworth

On 30 October 2012, 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:


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:

:: Ghanaian Detainees Statement - Death of Prince Ofosu



Notes
[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.



Related links


:: Ghanaian Detainees Statement - Death of Prince Ofosu
:: Demotix picture story on demo outside Harmondsworth
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
:: No-Deportations - Residence Papers for All

Article by Harmit Athwal published first on 08. Nov 2012 @ :: irr.org.uk.