Friday, 7 May 2010

British Safety Council Finally Withdraws Safety Award From Oakington

The British Safety Council (BSC) yesterday announced that it is withdrawing the 2009 International Safety Award (ISA) given to the G4S-run Oakington Immigration Removal Centre following the death of Eliud Nyenze at the detention centre on 14th April 2010. Interestingly, according to the BSC's own statement announcing the withdrawal, "the eligibility conditions for the British Safety Council’s International Safety Award preclude member organisations receiving this award where a fatality has taken place at the specified site"*. Yet the same statement claims that this is only a temporary removal until the investigation into the death can be completed, where upon the Council "will give further consideration to G4S Oakington IRC’s award application once the results of the investigations into the cause of Mr Nyenze’s death are known".

The granting of this award followed a less than clean bill of health in the Inspectorate of Prisons' 2008 report: "This was a disappointing inspection of an establishment which seemed to have lost direction and purpose. The uncertainty about the centre’s future was undoubtedly a factor in this, making planning difficult and inhibiting necessary investment in the infrastructure. However, this appeared to have infected managers and staff with a short-term, reactive approach."

The IRC's heath centre was also criticised: "Health services were generally good but the location of the healthcare centre was unsuitable and there were no counselling services. Overall, the centre was not performing sufficiently well against this healthy establishment test." The running of the centre is outsourced to Primecare Forensic Medical Services.

Rule 35 referrals (Detention Centre Rules requires health services staff to report any concerns that detention may be injurious to health, including if there has been an allegation of torture or suicidal intent, which should then result in a UKBA review of the person's continued detention) was also criticised. The Inspectorate also noted that "detainees told us that they did not consider health services at the centre to be good, and they had particular concerns about emergency responses", yet they "observed an appropriate primary care service provided by a well qualified team." However, the problem in Mr Nyenze's case seems to be that G4S staff refused Nyenze access to the heath services, even to the extent of providing him with analgesics when he complained of chest pains, so the Inspectorate's assessment of primary care services** were largely irrelevant.

Interestingly, Oakington was informed of the award of the ISA by the BSC three days before the death of Mr Nyenze and trumpeted the news THE DAY AFTER Mr Nyenze's death.*** However, it took the BSC nearly a month, and a lot of complaints by concerned members of the public, before they bit the bullet and applied their own rules for the awarding of their International Safety Award and removed it from Oakington.

* "A fatality at the site during 2009 or subsequently means that your organisation is not eligible for this award." - Application form for the 2009 ISA.
** Paras 5.19-25 of the report set out a list of some of the problems encountered with Oakington's primary care service.
*** The G4S press release is no longer on-line but quotes from the announcement are.

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