Force can be used by guards in Immigration Removal Centres and escorts while forcibly taking detained people on deportation flights. The Home Office permits the use of force if it “is reasonable, necessary and proportionate, and only using approved techniques. Only staff who have up to date training in Control & Restraint” (Detention Services Order 07/2016, para 11) In many cases it the force used has not been reasonable, necessary or proportionate.
Whether force is deemed ‘reasonable’ is down to the judgement of guards and escorts, many of whom have been described as racist and callous. The force they can use can be pain inducing and potentially life-threatening.
These guards and escorts are exposed to and influenced by the prevailing public discourse that dehumanises migrants, including frequent messages from the Home Secretary, and operate in a closed environment with little oversight.
The Home Office outsources activity where use of force is permitted, such as providing escorts for removals, to private companies. However, the Home Office remains responsible for the outcomes.
Handcuffs, leg restraints, the waist restraint belt and the mobile chair
Like the use of force, the use of restraints is permitted if it is deemed ‘reasonable, necessary and proportionate’. Restraints can be used when transporting detained people, including to medical appointments.
Many detained clients are taken to hospital appointments in handcuffs. An 84 year old detained man was kept in handcuffs as he died in hospital.
Why relatively few complaints about excessive use of force and restraints are submitted
Many detained people subjected to inappropriate use of force and restraints do not make official complaints because they either fear retribution, find it too traumatic to recall the events, have great difficulty getting evidence of the excessive use of force, or because they are not in a position to do so due to their physical and psychiatric injuries.
The relatively few who do make complaints face a flawed complaints system, documented by the Medical Justice “Biased & Unjust” report.
The lack of submitted complaints cannot be cause for reassurance – no complaints were submitted by the detained persons subjected to abuse captured by undercover BBC Panorama cameras at Brook House IRC. The mistreatment included use of force and racist abuse which was so serious that a public inquiry was established to investigate them. Medical Justice was granted Core Participant status in the public inquiry.
Case example: “Outrageous” and “utterly unacceptable” said the High Court – escorts seriously assaulted torture survivor
In a damning judgment the High Court has found that escorts seriously assaulted a mentally-ill torture survivor. The Judge also describes as “outrageous” and “utterly unacceptable” the regular use of painful, dangerous and unlawful restraint techniques.