UPDATE Monday 23rd November 2015 12noon
Ola recalls an Immigration officer saying that the Nigerian High Commission ”promised” to issue travel documents for him so that he could be removed via the Chartered flight operated by Titan Airways on the 28th of July. This same immigration officer was angry when Ola told them this did not happen. The Nigerian High Commission have previously refused to issue travel documents for him in 2013.
Despite this he has yet again been issued with a removal direction via charter this Tuesday. The Unity Centre is concerned that he could be put on the flight with or without travel documents and that there is no accountability for this type of secret behaviour.
Newspapers in Nigeria are reporting on corruption between the UK authorities and London Nigerian High Commission
PRESS RELEASE – Outrage across the UK as Home Office sets to remove up to 100 Nigerians, Ghanians and Sierra Leone nationals via charter flight despite reports of ‘excessive’ use of restraints – Nigerian Representatives stay silent
Charter flight is believed to be taking place from London Stansted Airport via prestigious private charter company Titan Airways. Confirmed is that the flight will depart 24th November 22:30hrs, arriving in Lagos 25th November 06:00hrs.
Every month the UK deports up to 100 detainees from the UK via charter flights commonly run by Titan Airways. This private company contracted by the Home Office leaves from London Stansted Airport in the dead of night on the last Tuesday of every month. The most recent inspection of HM Inspectorate of Prisons outlines concerns of how these are carried out and the excessive use of waist belt restraints on detainees. Full report: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/nigeria-and-ghana-escort-and-removals/
Phil Miller from Corporate Watch reports in ‘Deportees tied up like animals’ (https://corporatewatch.org/news/2015/nov/20/deportees-tied-animals) on the excessive use of new restraints brought in following the death of Jimmy Mubenga on board a British Airways flight in 2010. The report finds that the use of these restraints are not happening according to the guidelines of exceptional circumstances but have become routine. The restraints go around the entire body and hold hands and arms by ones sides. The Unity Centre received a distressing call a few months ago after this contraption was used upon a Nigerian national held in Dungavel IRC. As a result of the force used and severe pressing upon his chest he was admitted to the emergency room. He also reports having a pill forced into his mouth once the restraint was in place on his body and he was forced on the floor. One detainee reports seeing the use of these devices as an ‘everyday thing’. He goes onto say that the detention centre staff ‘use it all the time and people get injured from them’.
Detainees are taken from detention centres across the UK throughout the afternoon leading up to the planned routine charter flights after being locked up in individual rooms from the night before. This practice is believed to avoid any resistance with individuals suspected of resisting being placed in solitary confinement for days or weeks leading up to the flight. Women are transported from Yarlswood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) and men from Brookhouse IRC, Harmondsworth IRC, Colnbrook IRC. This process takes all afternoon and detainees are left waiting in their rooms, or on board buses for hours.
The Unity Centre has opposed these flights for years and has put out numerous press releases and compiled information regarding unlawful removals and attempted removals. Press releases leading up to the charter flight by Titan Airways on the 28th of July outlined a Belgium born planned to be on board among fathers and individuals who had been in the UK since early childhood. The Home Office later attempted removal to Belgium, this indicating acceptance that he cannot be legally removed to Nigeria. Set to be on this Tuesday’s charter flight is an Eritrean national who has provided his Eritrean birth certificate to his solicitor and the Home Office. The Unity Centre recently called for action regarding a prior attempted removal of this same individual to Nigeria earlier this month – http://unitycentreglasgow.org/home-office-trying-to-deport-eritrean-to-nigeria-take-action-now/
The above is just one example that has led to outrage at Nigerian High Commission for the way in which emergency travel documents are supplied to the Home Office. One member of staff in particular has a reputation with current and ex-detainees as being ‘wicked’ and ‘corrupt’. In response to public naming and shaming of this individual, Mrs. Ngere, the Nigerian High Commission issued a response stating they have been ‘wrongly accused….of corruption’ – http://www.nigeriahc.org.uk/uploads/news/Deportation0001.pdf
This same response states that ‘before any Nigerian is deported, the High Commission always insists that:
- their citizenship has been proved beyond reasonable doubt
- they are medically fit
- they are allowed to exhaust all their legal remedies; and
- for those who have stayed in the UK for more than 15 years, proof of existence of friends and relations as well as capacity to reintegrate.’
This statement is completely false. The Unity Centre has seen copious numbers of individuals that fail to meet these requirements. Furthermore, the Nigerian High Commission issue travel documents when individuals both inside and outside detention are at any stage of their immigration case upon request of the Home Office; this making point III. above obsolete.
One detainee reports being issued travel documents following a meeting with Mrs. Ngere who said she accepted he was Nigerian simply due to markings on his face. Another, Miki Ashiru met with Mrs. Ngere while being held in immigration detention and explained to her that he was born in Eritrea and has been in the UK for 22 years. He has an original Eritrean birth certificate which he has sent copies of to the Nigerian High Commission, the Home Office, his solicitor and ourselves. Despite this Mrs. Negere informed Miki that she had decided he would be issued with travel documents. Miki called her following the meeting to check on this decision, she greeted him as her ‘Eritrean brother’. He asked her how she could make such a decision given that he has no documents relating to Nigeria; no birth certificate, no passport, no proof of citizenship whatsoever. Miki states ‘How can she do this? She knows what she is doing. She greeted me like she was in Lagos. This is not Nigeria, she cannot behave like that in this country. She is getting paid and that is all she thinks about. She called me her Eritrean Brother. She said my name did not sound Nigerian but that there are Nigerians called Ashiru so she will issue the travel document. Ashiru is a Quranic, a Muslim name, there are people with this name all over the world. There is a woman working in immigration with a completely Nigerian sounding name, she was born here, Ngere would even give her travel documents if she could!’. Miki’s lawyer will not get funding for any actions she takes to prevent his removal on Tuesday due to legal aid cuts.
With respect to ensuring individuals are medically fit a current example also illustrates disregard for this. Sam (not his real name) has previously suffered from a shattered hip and had a hip replacement. His pain is not being managed and he is wobbling while he walks. He cannot sit in one place for long and is in complete discomfort all the time, he fears the suffering if forced to sit on the plane tomorrow. The Nigerian High Commission also allowed an attempted removal on a private plane and the following completed forced removal of Isa Muazu via charter flight at the start of 2014 despite his being on hunger strike for 100 days and clearly unfit for travel. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/fears-for-hunger-striker-isa-muazu-as-he-is-deported-to-nigeria-8973373.html
A detainee who has been in the UK since he was ten years old states he has no living relatives except his immediate family who have all relocated to the UK. He has been in the UK for 18 years, he cannot imagine what will happen to him is he is removed via charter flight. Tom (not his real name) has three children with the right to remain in the UK and a wife. He has an appeal that has not yet been concluded and the outcome of this appeal will effect his immigration status. His lawyer is working around the clock to ensure his removal does not take place. Furthermore, he has been in the UK 16 years and no investigation on his ability to reintegrate has been made; he confirms having no relatives in Nigeria. The Home Office tried to remove Tom earlier this month but failed due to his extremely high blood pressure. The health care nurse told him he was a ‘dead man walking’. On top of this Tom’s legal remedies have not been exhausted, he has been given in out of country right of appeal when in fact he is entitled to an in country right of appeal because he has children in the UK. His friend reports a similar situation of having a wife and children at home, they have lost their house while he has been in detention and his wife cannot manage without him. He cries as he explains his wife and his children’s distress, the oldest of whom has called immigration officers to plead for the release of their father.
The last point of the High Commissions statement makes one detainee Ray (not his real name) flip into outrage. He not only claims they do not do this but that this point does not incorporate the most immediate family members of many Nigerians set to be removed from the UK. Many detainees have wives, partners and children in the UK. Ray states that ‘Immigration Judges tell us we can maintain our family life over Skype. But how can you take your child to school through Skype? How can you have a relationship with your wife over Skype? How can you take your child to sports practice over Skype? How can you have sexual intercourse over Skype?’ The response from the Home Office is that immediate family members can relocate to Nigeria. In reality this is just not possible. The Nigerian High Commission sees these cases on a daily basis yet does not mention this very serious issue in their statement.
In response to the clear relationship between the Nigerian High Commission and the UK Home Office when it comes to issuing and obtaining travel documents, Movement For Justice have called for action. They will be taking statements from detainees and occupying outside the Nigerian High Commission office in London from 12noon Tuesday 24th November 2015, the day of the charter flight. They have also collected numerous statements from women detained in Yarlswood IRC found here – http://myemail.constantcontact.com/ACT-NOW-to-STOP-Nigerian-Charter-Flight-on-Tuesday.html?soid=1102126245189&aid=zZxUuuULrDs
Detainees are calling for raised public awareness of how they are treated and the use of charter flights. For further information and to connect with detainees set to be removed on Tuesday please contact Jasmine from The Unity Centre on 07440227972 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Unity Centre
22 Ibrox St
Glasgow G51 1AQ
Phone: 0141 427 7992
Fax: 0141 427 1959