British govt's deportation policy comes under attack

British govt's deportation policy comes under attack

The chairman of the Commons home Affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, Indian origin Labour MP, said he had "huge concerns" over the government's apparent indecision about whether restraint could be used against deportees and accused officials of "flip-flopping".

His concerns were echoed by Ed Balls, the shadow home secretary, who said "It is now vital for the home office to release details of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan refugee who collapsed and died on a British Airways plane preparing for take-off at Heathrow earlier this month.

A ban on forcing detainees on to commercial flights, which officials described as a precautionary but "unprecedented" measure, was introduced on October 15, three days after Mubenga lost consciousness while being heavily restrained by three guards working for the security firm G4s.

The Metropolitan police have since arrested the guards, who have been released on bail. The ban on the use of force was then lifted on Monday, after all escort guards were given new written guidance on how to conduct deportations safely. All escort staff were also given verbal briefings. The Home Office last night refused to release the new guidance, claiming it was "operational and sensitive".

David Wood, the UK Border Agency's strategic director for criminality and detention, said: "A minimum use of force is an absolute last resort, and would only ever be used when an individual becomes disruptive or refuses to comply.

"We did pause the use of restraint at boarding of scheduled removal flights as a precautionary and temporary measure. It has now been reinstated." The department made no mention of the ban in the last week, despite releasing numerous statements about the use of force against deportees.

Vaz said his committee would demand that the information be released to MPs. "It is essential that we have a clear and consistent policy regarding the force that can be used during deportations," he said.

The home affairs committee will question Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, about guidelines used by private companies during removals. "Parliament must be informed as to what force can be used, what guidelines are issued, and the procedures in place to ensure the safety of detainees," Vaz said.