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Substantial six-figure sum for mother and children assaulted by immigration escorts

The human rights department has secured compensation for our clients who were assaulted as they were deported from the UK

Photo: istock

25 June 2009

The head of the human rights department at law firm Leigh Day & Co, Frances Swaine, together with solicitor Merry Varney, have secured a considerable sum of compensation for a family from Uganda who were treated appallingly by the Home Office, and the private security services contracted by the Home Office to remove them from the UK.

Our client, a Ugandan woman initially sought refuge in the UK as she had been attacked in her own country and was in fear of her safety. She was joined in the UK by her three children, and whilst here married and had another two children, one of whom is a UK citizen. Sadly her husband died. Both the mother and the two eldest children suffered from mental health problems as a result of the abuse they had experienced in Uganda.

Unfortunately the family was unable to gain leave to remain in the UK. Despite their vulnerable state, and even though one of the children is a UK citizen, the family was detained in Yarlswood detention centre. At the centre the mother’s medication was withheld from her, the family’s mental health problems were not addressed and the baby’s UK passport was taken from them. Precious family belongings, including photos of the mother’s late husband were lost at the detention centre and have never been found.

Following a number of mishandled removal attempts the family, including one attempt when the family were left at Heathrow airport late at night with no means of returning to their home, the family, including the British baby, were finally deported from the UK.

The allegations were that members of the family were assaulted by agents of the Home Office who had been contracted to escort the family back to Uganda. During the removal they were subjected to a number of humiliating, degrading and physical assaults that included the mother being forcibly handcuffed with excessive and disproportionate force; being threatened with a threat to break her teeth; being forced to keep her head between her thighs for half the flight; being punched and having pressure applied to her throat. The mother’s eldest daughter was subjected to sexual assault by a female escort. The younger children were punched and dragged onto the plane with excessive force. The baby was kept from the mother during the flight and screamed with such force that other passengers on the plane were forced to remonstrate with the escorts until the mother was uncuffed and the baby was returned to her.

The family has been awarded a substantial six-figure sum of compensation in settlement for the injuries they suffered, including for psychological damage. They returned to the UK not long after deportation due to the circumstances in Uganda and all the children have now been recognised as refugees who have indefinite leave to remain in the country and have entered the education system. The mother is now training to be a nurse.

Frances Swaine said:

“It is time that the Home Office realised that contracting out security services to wholly inappropriate companies has to stop. This is not the first case of this type. This family was treated in a way that failed to recognise their humanity and was not of a standard that I would like to feel is possible in Britain. It is disgraceful that such a vulnerable group of people should have been treated in this way. We call on the Home Office to ensure that all companies contracted to act as escorts to asylum seekers who are leaving the UK carry out a full and proper training and ensure regulation of escorts to minimise the risk of such inhumane treatment occurring in the future."

The family have been supported from the time of the first attempted removal by Women Against Rape. For more information please contact Frances Swaine or Merry Varney on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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