Saturday, 14 April 2012

'Staff deporting foreigners out of UK 'loutish and aggressive' was the headline this morning (

Some staff working at the Agency (Reliance) appointed by the Home Office to deport people who are foreign nationals, are accused of failing to treat people with dignity and respect.

What then of the Equality Act, and of all the legislation that preceded it, borne of human endeavours; great people standing up for fairness and justice?

How, when deciding who their preferred provider would be, did the Government ensure that the important principles of justice and equality were embedded in the contracting process? What checks and measures were put in place to ensure that Reliance staff were given the space and challenges to check their prejudices and not allow these prejudices to impact on how they do their job? How did the Home Office assure itself that there was evident leadership within Reliance on equality issues, bearing in mind the history of the issues Reliance inherited when they took over the contract from G4S?

This is pehaps an example of the impact of the privatisation model for the discharge of government functions. With loosening control it would appear that compliance with equality legislation is of no consequence.

Jimmy Mubenga who died in 2010

The bland statement from the UKBorder Agency ( in response to the media headline today seems to indicate that there will be no proactive government intervention to ensure Reliance sorts out this appalling state of affairs.

Does this mean that the deaths of innocent people like Jimmy Mubenga, a 46 year old Angolan deportee who died while being forcibly restrained on  flight from Heathrow in October 2010 do not matter? Those who restrained him remain on bail. His death happened before Reliance took on the contract, which they are keen to point out. However it appears that the organisational culture that has led to the headline today seems to have continued unchallenged. Does it take another death in order to achieve this change?

Some people who are deported are 'criminals' but not all. I have met many who have fled torture, terrorism and war. During the process of seeking asylum and becoming refugees people tell me they are made to feel like criminals by our services and that they are often unable to speak up about their inhumane treatment. Those who have found the courage to complain are often ignored or disbelieved, and very rarely is an independent investigation/enquiry ordered. They are after all simply 'foreigh nationals', and somehow this label allows them to be dehumanised.

The point about whether people are or are not criminals does not matter, and of course we need a system where deportation is able to take place. We must ensure however that such systems are built on solid principles of humanity, respect, dignity and fairness.

We need this Government to stop its dismantling and undermining of equality and human rights issues and those courageous activists and grass roots organisations who will stand up and challenge injustice. We need a government that is proud of and abides by our equality legislation and shows real and committed leadership on it.

Mahatma Ghandi said that "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

I urge you to write to the Home Office or your MP and ask them what steps they are taking to ensure Reliance fulfils its legal and moral obligations to people. People whose circumstances may be very different to you or I. They are though still people - like you or I.

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