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Deportation: ‘taken ill’ or killed?

Go to any refugee support group in Britain and they will be able to recount numerous stories of excessive force used by agents of the UK Border Agency when deporting ‘failed’ asylum seekers. These reports are routinely denied of course – and the victims have no recourse. They are either gone or still fighting their case for asylum and anxious not to jeopardize it.

In our June edition we told the story of John ‘Bosco’ Nyombi, a Ugandan man who underwent deportation, who still shudders whenever a Group 4 Security van passes by.

Now Jimmy Mubenga, who was being deported on a British Airways flight to Angola on the night of 12 October, is dead. The Home Office claims he was ‘taken ill’ during the flight, and Group 4 Security say he ‘became unwell’.

Witnesses on the flight say he was being held down on the floor by three burly agents of G4S when he passed out. He is reported to have pleaded to fellow passengers that he couldn’t breathe before passing out. The flight was aborted and returned to the airport. There was no request for first aid for Mubenga during that time. By the time medics arrived to take him off the flight all was deathly still.

So what is to be believed – the official version that he was ‘taken ill’ or the testimony of eyewitnesses? And if the cause of death is established as being asphyxiation, will it matter? Will it change anything for the numerous desperate people being mistreated and forced into scared silence through the cruel deportation system?

See also Deported! Different destinies.

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