Home Office-chartered Pakistan removal flight – respectful treatment but concerns including fire on escort vehicle

Inspectors found a mix of “positive and negative features” in the treatment of 34 people escorted from the UK to Pakistan on a Home Office-chartered immigration removal flight.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said escort staff from the private company Tascor were observed dealing with detainees respectfully and keeping them informed about the process during a “reasonably efficient” operation in February 2018.

The need for restraints was in most cases assessed in an appropriate and proportionate manner, though some were applied for too long. Some escort staff were seen falling asleep next to detainees they were meant to be supervising but this was less of a problem than on an inspected Pakistan flight in 2015, when many staff fell asleep. There were generally good interactions between detainees and escort staff

A principal area of concern for inspectors related to the mechanical condition of the vehicles taking detainees from five immigration removal centres to Stansted airport. Mr Clarke said: “At our previous inspection, we commented on a series of mechanical breakdowns on the coaches used for transfers. On this inspection, a fire broke out on one of the coaches transporting detainees to the airport, which could have had more serious consequences.”

The report noted: “The first coach departing from Harmondsworth caught fire on the motorway and had to be evacuated. Inspectors were on a coach that was following some distance behind and (which) attended the incident to collect detainees and staff…We received conflicting reports about the evacuation procedure and a Home Office investigation had not reported at time of writing (this report). We requested incident reports from Tascor in relation to this incident. A single generic use of force document was completed for all detainees, which did not show how long detainees were in handcuffs, exactly when they were applied, or whether the risks of injury from the coach fire were taken into account.”

Mr Clarke added that professional interpreting was still not used enough. “There was no interpreter on the coach that had the fire, and some detainees in a frightening emergency situation may not have understood what was said to them or been able to communicate effectively with escort staff.”

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“This operation was completed reasonably efficiently, but nine of our 11 previous recommendations (from the 2015 report) were not achieved and there is too little focus on improvement.”

-Ends –

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 28 June 2018, can be found here.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. All inspections carried out by HM Inspectorate of Prisons contribute to the UK’s response to its international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). OPCAT requires that all places of detention are visited regularly by independent bodies – known as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) – which monitors the treatment of and conditions for detainees. Escorts are included in this remit. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is one of several bodies making up the NPM in the UK.
  4. This was the third charter flight to Pakistan to be inspected by HMI Prisons and took place from 14–15 February 2018. The aircraft was chartered by the Home Office Directorate of Immigration Enforcement, and Tascor was the escort contractor. Detainees were collected from five immigration removal centres (IRCs): Colnbrook, Brook House, Harmondsworth, Yarl’s Wood and Campsfield House.
  5. There were 34 detainees on the flight, fewer than the 65 expected because of legal intervention for some detainees and a fire on one of the coaches during the journey to Stansted.
  6. Please contact John Steele at HM Inspectorate of Prisons on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452, or at john.steele@justice.gov.uk, if you would like more information.