The Independent reports that the UK government has undertaken to pursue an investigation into physical and mental abuse of asylum-seekers in detention and upon removal by the staff of private security firms to which these functions have been outsourced. The piercing report – ‘Outsourcing Abuse: The use and misuse of state-sanctioned force during the detention and removal of asylum seekers’ – written in collaboration between a number of NGOs and solicitors firms working in the field of immigration and asylum law in the UK, revealed nearly 300 cases of alleged physical assault and racial abuse in the past four years (see also the press release and the Independent’s article following its publication).
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has appointed Nuala O’Loan, the former Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Emma Ginn, of Medical Justice (one of the organizations that coordinated the report), which helps victims of abuse, said: “The Home Office had previously described allegations as ‘unsupported assertions’. We note their change of tone now that national and global organisations have picked up on the issue.”
The report highlighted a number of grave problems which start with the outsourcing of such sensitive services that need to be scrupulously provided by the government to ensure that they are closely and continuously monitored, and proceed with the UK government’s own failure to open and conduct effective investigations ex post factum with regards to the innumerable allegations that have resurfaced in recent years on the ill-treatment of immigration detainees by staff of private security companies administrating the UK government’s immigration removal centres and conducting removal. It should be emphasized that many of these allegations and testimonies amount to situations going well-beyond petty abuse claims and ranging in many instances to proper cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (as defined by Article 16, UN Convention Against Torture, inter alia).