Harmondsworth exposed: The immigration detention centre where they handcuff people as they die

Cuffed: the official report paints a damning picture of the regime at Harmondsworth
Cuffed: the official report paints a damning picture of the regime at Harmondsworth
Ian Dunt By

Terminally ill people have been handcuffed as they died in immigration detention centres, according to a devastating new report.

The HM chief inspector of prisons report into Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre found that in at least two cases elderly, vulnerable and incapacitated detainees were handcuffed for no reason.

One was so ill he died shortly after the handcuffs were removed, the other – an 84-year-old – died while still restrained.

"Terminally ill, dying elderly people should not be handcuffed to their hospital bed. People will rightly be appalled by this incident and the home secretary should be appalled too," Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.


"The public, who are paying for this facility, expect those running it to abide by official recommendations.

"That isn’t happening at this facility. Instead there has been a shocking lack of basic humanity. That must end now."

The 84-year-old, called Alois Dvorzac, was refused entry on January 23rd last year when he arrived at Gatwick.

He had a stay in hospital and was then sent to Harmonsworth but a doctor declared him unfit for detention or deportation and said he needed social care.

The doctor's demand made little difference and Dvorzac was subject to an attempted deportation by authorities. This was stopped by a second doctor who said he was not fit to fly.

Two days later he was taken to hospital in handcuffs. The terminally ill man died on a second visit to the hospital on February 10th, while in handcuffs.

The other case of a dying man being kept in handcuffs occurred in November 2012.

The man was sedated and kept handcuffed while he underwent an angioplasty procedure in hospital. He died seven hours after the cuffs were removed.

Chief inspector Nick Hardwick branded the use of handcuffs at the centre as "grossly excessive".

He added: "Segregation was being used excessively and was not in line with the detention centre rules.

"Disturbingly, a lack of intelligent individual risk assessment has meant that most detainees were handcuffed on escort."

Security procedures at the centre also lacked proportionality, the inspector found.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: "The use of restraint in this case seems completely unjustified and must not be repeated. Clear instructions have been issued making clear that restraint should only happen where absolutely necessary."

Juliet Lyon, from the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Have the authorities responsible for Harmondsworth forgotten the basic principles of humanity and decency that must apply to any form of custody?"

Harmondsworth is a privately-run detention centre just outside Heathrow which keeps single men ahead of deportations.

It was the centre of controversy late last year after it held Isa Muazu, an asylum seeker who was deported despite having gone 90 days without food and being close to death.

Campaigners visiting detainees frequently report a hostile attitude inside the centre, with unfriendly, gruff staff trying to prevent them entering. There are also regular reports of visitors being given inaccurate information about the location of detainees in order to prevent them seeing them.

A spokesman for Geo, the contractor which runs the centre, insisted handcuffing of detainees while leaving the centre was not routine.

"However, where there is a documented risk of absconding, handcuffs may be used, balanced against a number of factors, including their age," they said.

"Managers have to use discretion to take difficult decisions and we have issued them with additional guidance," he added.

Comments

Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.

Newsletter update