Saturday, 19 June 2010

It Wasn't Us Guv, Honest

The UK Border Agency and G4S, whose staff were confirmed as being involved in the forced removals, have categorically denied that any force was used during the flight to Baghdad on Wednesday. David Wood, Strategic Director of Criminality (sic) and Detention, is quoted as saying: "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees removed from the UK were mistreated by our staff." However, Matthew Coats, head of Immigration at the UKBA, declined to comment about the claims, though he did repeat the usual homilies about "only ever return[ing] those who both the agency and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection."

For their part, G4S stated: "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees were mistreated by G4S employees. Our officers are highly trained to ensure the safety of both returnees and staff and will only restrain returnees as a last resort, and then only in line with policies and procedures set out by the UKBA. We can confirm a small number of returnees did not want to disembark in Baghdad; but after Iraqi officials came on the plane and spoke to them, they left the aircraft calmly and without incident. At no time was any kind of force used against this small group."

The Guardian, which has carried most of the coverage of the flight, reported that up to 25 of 42 deported Iraqis and Kurds were still under detention at Baghdad airport yesterday, despite being screened in advance by Iraqi officials in the UK. One refugee claimed, "We've been in Iraqi since 4.30am [Thursday] but we have been locked up since. Twenty-five people in one small cell – we can't breathe. Some are seriously ill because of the hunger and the heat."

Another of the deportees, a Kurd named Abdullah [though not the same person we quoted yesterday] claimed that ""During the flight I took my seat belt off [and] the officers jumped on me and grabbed me by the neck so I couldn't breathe. Baghdad is dangerous for Kurds; people hunt Kurds for kidnapping or to kill them. When we landed Iraqi officials came on to the plane and said that if anybody did not come out [voluntarily] 'we will kick you and beat you'. Some were scared and went out. Then the [British security] officials and Iraqi officers started beating us, saying: 'This is your country. Go back.'"

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