Nuala O'Loan, the former Northern Ireland police ombudsman, has finally issued her review of the report 'Outsourcing Abuse' published by Birnberg Peirce & Partners, Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns almost two and a half years ago. In Ms O'Loan's review for the UK Borders Agency, whilst she found no evidence of the "systematic abuse" alleged in 'Outsourcing Abuse', she did however find that in nearly two-thirds of the 29 complaints she looked into that were either inadequately investigated or no investigation actually took place. In some cases escort staff had not even considered whether the force used was "proportionate and necessary" as required to do by law.
The original report was compiled in response to Home Office criticism of allegations published in the Independent about 200 documented incidences of racist and physical abuse perpetrated against immigration detainees by escort staff. 'Outsourcing Abuse' was in turn based upon a dossier of nearly 300 such cases (pgs 2, 6 & 20) and did not, as has been stated by Ms O'Loan, UKBA (in the guise of Lin Horner*) and the mainstream media(the few that actually chose to cover the story), claim to contain details of all 289 dossier cases, merely that the statistical analysis contained in the report was based on them. Obviously it would be difficult to itemise all 289 cases in a 72 page report, and only 48 case reports were subsequently passed on to the Home Office, with many victims understandably wanting to maintain their anonymity.
Interestingly, one of the reasons why some of those 48 cases could not be examined properly because they had been left in a rat-infested area and had become so contaminated they were a health risk, something that no one in the media has picked up on. Certainly not the UKBA, who in their bizarre and of course bland response state that "some of the earlier (!?!) cases [O'Loan] considered there was a failure to have proper processes in place for dealing with allegations of mistreatment. We have now addressed this.** Her review reflects improvements over the years as to how complaints are investigated, and the additional safeguards that have been built into our processes."
Apparently not, given the denials issued over the brutalisation of the Yarl's Wood hunger strikers and the refusal to consider an inquiry into those allegations either by UKBA itself or the Prisons Inspectorate. Now 11 of the women who have been on hunger strike have been forced to take the government and Serco, the company that runs Yarl's Wood, to court. They allege that their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and their rights not to be tortured, suffer inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment have all been breached by Serco guards. The damages claim specifically refers to an incident on 11 February when the women were locked in a corridor and refused water, access to toilets and medication.
* It should also be noted that Lin Horner, the Chief Executive of UKBA, claims in her foreword to the review that the motivation of Medical Justice et al in publishing the allegations of abuse was to "damage the reputation of our contractors", rather than publicising the abuse suffered by its clients.
8* O'Loan's review makes 22 recommendations and it would be interesting to hear from the UKBA exactly how all 22 had been anticipated and addressed.