Rules governing enforced removals from the UK - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  Those who have no right to remain in the UK must leave the country and, if they refuse to do so voluntarily, they may have to be detained for a short time, if necessary escorted throughout the flight and, in extreme situations, may have to be restrained physically in order to prevent greater harm. However, whenever the state uses force to coerce a person, there need to be checks on that force. These checks take the form of carefully constructed procedures to limit harm, of adequate training and proper supervision of staff, and adequate means of complaint and redress if anything goes wrong. Where the state has contracted out responsibility for coercion, it retains ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all the checks are in place and working well. It is important that this is understood within the culture of both the Agency and that of its contractors, and not just acknowledged in formal documents. This is one of a number of areas of activity where there appears to be a reluctance by officials to accept constructive criticism, and as the UK Border Agency is not an independent body, but is in fact an integral part of the Home Office, this is a matter that we call on the Home Secretary to require the Permanent Secretary to address as part of the central management responsibilities of the Department. (Paragraph 11)

2.  We are not persuaded that head-down restraint positions are never used, even though they are not authorised. We recommend that the Home Office issue urgent guidance to all staff involved in enforced removals about the danger of seated restraint techniques in which the subject is bent forwards. We also recommend that the Home Office commission research into control and restraint techniques which are suitable for use on an aircraft. The use by contractors of unauthorised restraint techniques, sanctioning their use, or failing to challenge their use, should be grounds for dismissal. (Paragraph 18)

3.  The use of excessive numbers of escorts, to the extent that HM Chief Inspector of Prisons believes that escort numbers are in some cases detrimental to the removals process, is hard to justify against a background of reduced staffing levels across the public sector. It is a symptom of a weakness in the contracting process that the contractor is able to supply more staff than are required to do the job, with costs passed on to the Home Office. When the contract for enforced removals is next revised, it should specify precise ratios of escorts to detainees and the contractor should be able to depart from these only for clearly-defined, operational reasons. (Paragraph 21)

4.  We agree with HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, that the use of reserves on enforced removal flights should be discontinued. (Paragraph 23)

5.  It seems to us that the form concentrates mainly on any risk to those escorting the detainee rather than to the detainee him/herself. Moreover, the section on health is cramped, and it is not at all clear that it would necessarily be completed in a way to make it immediately comprehensible to a non-medical expert, like an escort officer: the lack of space would tend to force the experts to make terse notes rather than giving helpful detail. This is of special importance if the use of some—or any—restraint techniques might exacerbate an underlying medical condition, such as heart disease or asthma. (Paragraph 25)

6.  While we do not want to add to the paperwork which detention centres and escort officers have to deal with, we consider that there is a strong argument for providing a simple indication on the front page of the form flagging up the fact that the detainee has a medical condition which might lead to problems in the stressful conditions of enforced deportation. If a possible problem is flagged up, then the escort officers should be briefed on the practical consequences before the removal begins. (Paragraph 26)

7.  It is a matter for serious concern that contractors should use racist language among themselves. That they were content to do so in front of not only UK Border Agency staff but also inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons is shocking. It is possibly the result of a relationship between the Agency and its contractors which had become too cosy. We recommend that the senior management of the UK Border Agency send a clear and strong message to staff who are involved in removals, that they have the full support of senior management in challenging the use of racist language by contractors, and that they are expected to do so. The contract should be amended to include a provision which requires the contractor to pay a financial penalty to the Home Office where there is a proven incident of the use of racist language by its staff. (Paragraph 32)

8.  We recommend that members of the Independent Monitoring Boards for immigration removal centres—or a similar independent monitoring network—be given access to chartered removal flights. However, the main issue is the need for better management and more confident behaviour by staff of the Agency and this is a matter that must be addressed by the Permanent Secretary in relation to removals as well as to the generality of the work of this Agency which is—as we have pointed out repeatedly—an integral part of the Home Office and not an independent or arm's-length agency. (Paragraph 40)

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 26 January 2012