New Internationalist

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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  1. #1 HARRY 16 Oct 10

    This man, like many deportees was killed by positional asphyxiation, most likely combined with chocking.

    Any medical examiner/doctor or forensic pathologist will know that obstruction of a human's airway or compression of the lungs will lead to death by a cardiac arrest.

    This man was likely held down by multiple 'burly' men who denied him the ability to breathe. This amounts to murder - yet as per usual in the UK it will be whitewashed/covered up in a similar way to the Tomlinson G20 saga - a friendly and compliant HOP will find some other explanation for his death.

    Make no mistake - a person who is stopped breathing is killed - there is no such thing as 'became unwell'. When you stab someone and they die from their injuries - it is because they were stabbed - not because of a sugar coated 'became unwell' or 'taken ill' nonsense.

    Yet another person who has died thanks to not only the UKBA but 'guards' who have more interest in punishment/control and killing a person than any sense of duty of care and professionalism. The man was denied medical assistance onboard and the airlines, BA, should be utterly ashamed of themselves for carrying him but also for subjecting passengers to seeing a man murdered before their very eyes. I doubt there will be any jstice for thie 'failed' asylum seeker - who still had the right to, and was protected by, human rights legislation. The right to LIFE is a right under UK and EU legislation. The UK is in breach of the human rights act - end of.

  2. #2 Dinyar Godrej 18 Oct 10

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Harry.

    The right to life is sadly somewhat relative in our Western democracies, isn't it?

    At every stage in the asylum process, the people seeking sanctuary are treated with contempt. Such is the zeal to deport them that the agencies involved routinely break national laws safe in the knowledge that these instances either won't come to light or that if they do, then it will be a case of 'allegations' which they can easily brush aside.

  3. #3 sylvie ngouabi 23 Oct 10


    it's reely sad to a father and a family man to killed by uk border agents wich they want denied that the kill mr jimmy mubenga.
    in this country immigrant they are a rats even bird has more consideration more than black peoples.
    there is not a withe british in africa living in peace?and what about article 8 regarding a family,we are fed up

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About the author

Dinyar Godrej a New Internationalist contributor

Dinyar Godrej has been associated with New Internationalist since 1989, but joined as an editor in 2000. His interest in human rights has led him to focus on subjects like world hunger, torture, landmines, present day slavery and healthcare. His belief in listening to people who seldom get a chance to represent themselves led to unorthodox editions on (and by) street children and people with disabilities from the Majority World. He grew up in India and remains engaged with South Asian affairs.

Dinyar wrote the original No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change (2001) and edited Fire In The Soul (2009).

An early fascination with human creative endeavour endures. He has recently taken to throwing pots in his free time.

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