Calls for an independent investigation into death of man at Harmondsworth

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Calls for an independent investigation into death of man at Harmondsworth

Barbed wire, Flickr under creative comms licence, Terry Freeman

The family of a detainee who died at Harmondsworth Detention Centre claimed that he had asked for medical help for weeks but wasn’t seen by a doctor. According to the Independent, Oscar Okwurime asked the authorities for medical assistance for weeks, but no action was taken. ‘That first week, they didn’t do anything. And the second week he said they were still saying nothing. The last time I saw him, he told me he was on a waiting list of about 400,’ his brother, Alex, told the paper.

According to Alex, Oscar, a Nigerian national, was detained for three weeks, after he entered the country on a visitor’s visa and claiming asylum on arrival. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined. The Home Office stated that the police, the coroner and the prisons and probation ombudsman were investigating. Mitie Care & Custody, who manages the detention centre, has launched an internal investigation on the death.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor and Labour MP for Heathrow, where the detention centre is located, has called for an independent investigation.

Oscar was due to be deported on September 17th and was reported to have been terrified after receiving the flight ticket. Other detainees scheduled for the same flight claimed they were fearful about the possibility of being restrained on the flight.

The high court halted the flight of three other Nigerian men scheduled to fly on the same date, claiming they may be able to provide evidence on the causes of the death. Mr Justice Butler said there was ‘a serious issue’ that there should not be a removal of persons for whom there were ‘grounds to believe that they may have material evidence to give in relation to the death of Oscar Okwurime’.

The judge rejected a request by lawyers representing some of the detainees to widen the order to other detainees due to fly on that day. ‘The ever-rising death toll and suffering is the human consequence of the UK’s dehumanising and unjust detention system. We agree with the British Medical Association’s call to phase out immigration detention otherwise the deaths and harm will continue,’ Emma Gin, from Medical Justice told theGuardian.

According to INQUEST, between 2000 and 2018, at least 36 detainees died inimmigration detentioncentresand a further 14 other immigration detainees died in UK’s prisons.