Inspection report on escorted immigration removal flight to Nigeria and Ghana

By agency reporter
December 3, 2018

Management of Operation Majestic, a regular escorted immigration removal flight from the UK to Nigeria and Ghana, had improved following inspectors’ criticism of previous flights, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Publishing a report on an inspection of a flight at the end of July 2018, Mr Clarke identified a more proportionate use of force as one area of improvement.

Compared to previous flights inspected in 2011, 2013 and 2015, inspectors also saw “more considered application of waist restraint belts,” Mr Clarke said, although, he added: “We still identified several cases where they were not justified and kept on for too long.”

A total of 28 people were collected from four immigration removal centres (IRCs) – Colnbrook, Harmondsworth, Yarl’s Wood and Campsfield House – and flown from Birmingham to Lagos and Accra, on a flight chartered by the Home Office. The longest individual journey from IRC to Africa was 19 hours.

More than 80 staff were involved in the escort, managed by the contractor, Mitie Care and Custody. Mitie had recently taken over the contract from Tascor. The flight also collected individuals from Dublin, though HM Inspectorate of Prisons inspected only the UK element of the operation.

Mr Clarke said: “Staff’s contribution to the smooth running of the operation at immigration removal centres should not be underestimated and we were impressed with some of the dialogue and the strength of relationships we observed, which helped calm and reassure detainees and assisted escort staff.”

Inspectors noted some good examples of ‘de-escalation’ of difficult encounters. Escort staff wore dark trousers and polo shirts, an improvement on the military-style camouflage trousers seen on previous flights.

However, Mr Clarke added: “We saw fewer improvements in other areas of recurrent concern, including in the very lengthy waits on coaches and avoidably long journeys, which contributed to detainees’ stress during removals.

“While escort staff generally interacted positively with detainees, they became frustrated when dealing with some demanding situations, and responded unprofessionally on occasion. Matters of simple decency, including detainees being able to go to the toilet in private and access facilities, such as pillows and blankets on an overnight flight, endured.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “This operation was completed reasonably efficiently and we saw some improvements, which were likely to be a result of management’s focus on charter removals since our recent critical reports. However, there is still more to do to ensure that these operations are consistently well conducted and that standards are improved.”

* Read the report Detainees under escort:  Inspection of escort and removals to Nigeria and Ghana here

Detainees under escort: Inspection of escort and removals to Nigeria and Ghana Action Plan (November 2018) here

* HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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