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Immigration: Jimmy Mubenga

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2010

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there will be a full investigation into the death of Mr Jimmy Mubenga during deportation.

My Lords, the circumstances of Mr Mubenga’s death are the subject of police investigation. A Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigation and a coroner’s inquest will also take place in due course. Escort staff receive training on issues such as welfare, first aid, use of force and restraint. Prior to a removal, escorts are provided with a risk assessment of the individual, which will include known facts on medical conditions, the risk of self-harm, the likelihood of any attempt to escape and known criminal activities or violent behaviour.

I thank my noble friend for her reply. Have the Government taken full account of the report done for the Home Office by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, in March this year? Were all her recommendations about the use of force taken into account?

My Lords, it is indeed the case that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, reported in March this year and all her recommendations are being put into effect. As she reported at the time, she found no evidence of systematic abuse by the UK Border Agency.

My Lords, I declare an interest as patron of Haslar detention centre in Portsmouth. Will the noble Baroness kindly tell the House how many Zimbabweans are proposed to be removed from this country and over what period that will happen?

My Lords, I regret to say that I do not have that figure to hand, but I will certainly write to the noble Earl on the matter.

Does the noble Baroness agree not only that this issue is grave in this particular instance but, with her responsibilities for security, that the trouble is that, when something goes wrong, it plays directly into the hands of those who are trying to manipulate opinion in support of militant rebels, terrorists and the rest? It is therefore essential to get the administration of policy in this area right and humane in the cause of winning hearts and minds.

My Lords, I am quite certain that the Government agree with every single point that the noble Lord has just made. This is the first time that there has been a death of an escorted individual and it is extraordinarily regrettable. We entirely take the point that this is exactly what we do not wish to happen. We will take the consequences and the findings of any investigation very seriously.

My Lords, the report that I authored, which has been referred to, made specific recommendations on the type of technique used for control and restraint and the training provided for the use of that technique, which was a “one size fits all”. Although those recommendations have been accepted, are they actually being implemented? Also, can the Minister say whether the chief inspector of UKBA is monitoring the implementation of the recommendations, as I also recommended?

On the noble Baroness’s second point, the chief inspector of UKBA is doing that. On her first point, there is a review going on of the whole question of accreditation. The techniques used, as the noble Baroness will know, are ones that are used by the prison officers’ administration, but we are looking, with its help, at whether we can find further training with regard to the process of accreditation. We agree that it is important that the correct techniques of restraint are used, because that issue can give rise to the sort of difficulties that we may have seen.

My Lords, I should declare an interest as the person who forwarded the report Outsourcing Abuse to the Home Secretary more than two and a half years ago, which prompted her to ask the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, to conduct an inquiry. The report was about the use of force during the detention and removal of asylum seekers and many other issues as well. Are any of the recommendations in that report also being processed?

My Lords, my belief is that, given the seriousness of this issue, the recommendations that were made have indeed been implemented. In the light of what has happened, we need to go through those recommendations as well as those of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, to see whether there are things that we can do better or in addition. We will look seriously at the outcome of the investigations that are taking place. We do not wish to see this happen again.

My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that regard is being had not only to training but also to including the correct requirements in the commissioning of private organisations so that regard is had to this matter at the highest level initially? What training and instructions are there with regard to other passengers who may be forced to witness such an unhappy occurrence? This may be a second-order matter, but the incident must have been extraordinarily distressing for the other passengers on the flight.

The noble Baroness’s last point is right, although I hope that we do not get to the point of having to train passengers to witness unfortunate events. On her point about accreditation and the requirements laid down for the private sector escort companies, this issue is taken seriously. Requirements are laid down and such companies receive training, which is compulsorily renewed. We have an accreditation system and companies and individuals do indeed lose their accreditation. We are trying to inject a great deal of discipline into this system.