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HM Chief Inspector of Prisons criticises use of restraint and finds privacy and dignity lacking on deportation flight to Nigeria and Ghana


Inspection report raises concerns over unnecessary and unacceptable use of restraint

Date of Publication:
15 August 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons criticises use of restraint and finds privacy and dignity lacking on deportation flight to Nigeria and Ghana

15 August 2019

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons last week released a report examining the deportation of detainees under escort to Nigeria and Ghana.

You can download the 21-page report here.

The report looks specifically at a deportation flight from Birmingham on 26 March 2019 that flew to Lagos and then Accra. It was the fifth charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana that HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has inspected.

There were 19 detainees on the flight. While 32 detainees were expected, the numbers were reduced due to outstanding legal matters, including late legal interventions against removal.

Overall, the report finds the deportation operation was completed reasonably well, but concern was expressed over the unnecessary use of restraint.

The report states: "Although we observed some good dynamic risk assessments being made, we also observed some unjustified use of restraints. In Yarl's Wood, for example, if a detainee said that they did not wish to be removed, this was considered to be sufficient justification for the use of a waist restraint belt, even if they were compliant and cooperative.

"During the operation, waist restraint belts were applied on seven detainees who were removed, including three women. In all cases, there was insufficient reassessment of ongoing risk, and restraints remained in place for too long. Only one detainee resisted boarding the aircraft. He was carried on using approved techniques."

Chief Inspector Peter Clarke said it was unacceptable that this problem continues to occur despite promises of remedial action.

In addition, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons noted that detainees could only use toilets on the coach to the airport and on aircraft with the door left ajar, which was considered to be an unnecessary intrusion on privacy and not based on individual risk assessment.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons concludes that  some standards of common decency were not met, and improvements to deportation flights are necessary in order to promote detainee privacy and dignity at a time of stress for people being removed from the UK.

Following on from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons's findings, the Guardian reported on Sunday that it had learned from a Freedom of Information request that hundreds of people being deported from the UK were restrained by a variety of methods including shackles.

According to the Guardian, there were 447 cases where one or more forms of restraint were used between April 2018 and March 2019.

Labour MP David Lammy told the Guardian: "This paints a hugely chilling picture that appears to go far beyond reasonable and proportionate force. The ancestors of many of those who find themselves on these flights were once put in chains and shackles too. This abuse of power is utterly shameful and future generations will look back on it with horror."

In response, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance, as is the safety of individuals and those around them.

"We keep the use of restraint during escorted removals under review and we look at all removals where force is used to ensure that techniques are used proportionally, that they are justified, and are used for the minimum period required."