Officers 'tried to force asylum seeker to airport' despite court ruling
Man who was granted injunction due to risk of suicide says he sustained an injury during attempted removal
An asylum seeker who crossed the Channel to the UK on a small boat claims he was forced out of his cell in a detention centre by officers who wanted to put him on a flight even though a judge had halted his removal hours earlier, the Guardian has learned.
He was restrained and sustained an injury during the attempted removal in the early hours of Wednesday morning by officers unaware of the high court decision.
The Home Office removed 14 asylum seekers who crossed the Channel in small boats on a charter flight to France and Germany on Wednesday morning). Nineteen others did not fly, some due to postponements and three – including the man officers attempted to take to the airport – because of eleventh-hour legal intervention.
Home Office sources confirmed the man was staying at the Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick, which is run by the contractor Serco. He was treated by a nurse at the centre for an injury to his nose sustained during the incident.
Detention staff informed the man at around 2am that a high court injunction had halted his planned removal on the flight.
But at around 5am he said a group of officers arrived in his cell and told him he was being taken to the charter flight. Wearing only his underpants, the mansays he protested but was restrained, forced out of his cell, clothed, and taken to a waiting car. In the course of the incident he said he was hit in the face, causing blood to pour from his nose.
Home Office sources said the man sustained a minor nosebleed through impact with an officer’s leg.
The man says he was put into a car where he experiencd a panic attack. At that point further checks were made that confirmed his removal had been halted and he was returned to his cell.
The man’s legal representative, Helen Baron, a trainee solicitor at Duncan Lewis, said she was filing a complaint about the incident: “I was horrified to receive a call from my client informing me that despite the Home Office being informed both by myself and by the court that an injunction had been granted preventing his removal to France due to his severe mental ill health and risk of suicide, he was woken at 5am by a crowd of people intent on taking him to the airport. The fact that a suicidal asylum seeker and a victim of torture could be treated in this way is deeply disturbing.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This individual was due to be removed on a planned charter flight but was granted a last-minute stay on removal in the middle of the night by an out-of-hours judge following further appeals. It is always harder for staff to put alternative arrangements in place when last-minute appeals are lodged so late in the day, and safeguards are in place to prevent anyone being put on a flight where a late stay on removal has been secured. The situation was quickly rectified and the individual did not at any point leave the site where he is staying.
“Before trained officers entered his room, staff conducted a full risk assessment, as this individual had been on constant supervision and recent security information indicated he may be a threat to himself or staff. Restraint is only used where it is strictly necessary, proportionate and in line with guidance.”