O’LOAN REPORT CONFIRMS YARL’S WOOD ABUSE – ‘and the failure to investigate it’

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‘THE O’Loan Report confirms Yarl’s Wood abuse and the failure to investigate it,’ says Public Interest Lawyers.

Public Interest Lawyers said: ‘Today’s report by Baroness O’Loan adds to the growing evidence of the prevailing culture of abuse inside Britain’s immigration detention centres, particularly at Yarl’s Wood.

‘It contains damning evidence of abuse of detainees that cannot be summarily dismissed in the manner the Home Office has today attempted.’

PIL continued: ‘The Suppiah and Others Case:

‘On 1 March 2010, Public Interest Lawyers issued in the High Court an unprecedented legal action challenging the indeterminate and inhumane detention of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

‘They include women who have fled their home countries to escape death and torture, and very young children who have known little other than extreme poverty and incarceration during their time in Britain.

‘Amongst our clients’ allegations are claims of gratuitous physical assault by Serco staff and prolonged and arbitrary isolation.

‘It is also asserted that around 70 women were seriously ill-treated during a peaceful protest and left to urinate and vomit in a hot, airless and locked corridor for several hours.

‘Some women collapsed or suffered asthma attacks and yet received no assistance from staff.

‘The women also assert that they and their children were treated in an inhumane manner during transit and upon admission to Yarl’s Wood and that their health care needs were neglected throughout their detention.

‘The effect of their ill-treatment and, in two cases, continued detention, has had a profound impact on the women and children involved.

‘One of our clients was driven to attempt suicide whilst in isolation.

‘The Home Office has until 4pm on Monday to respond to the allegations.’

On the O’Loan Report, Public Interest Lawyers continued: ‘The incidents described in the O’Loan Report, which was commissioned by the UK Border Agency itself, confirm that the experiences of our clients are not isolated cases but symptomatic of a regime that must now end.

‘Baroness O’Loan points to several cases of abuse that clearly amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment within the meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘She mentions the serious injuries to handcuffed and leg-restrained detainees, some of whom were undergoing surgery at the time.

‘She also refers to one case in which a woman was carried naked through a detention centre in full view of staff and other detainees.

‘She highlights specific unexplained injuries to detainees that went completely uninvestigated.

‘As the European Court of Human Rights has held on many occasions, where a person is injured in state custody, the state “bears a heavy burden” in explaining the cause of those injuries and in demonstrating that there has been no Convention breach.

‘Baroness O’Loan investigated 29 cases of alleged abuse, two thirds of which had not been subject to any effective investigation, which itself constitutes a breach of the ECHR.

‘The need to properly investigate arguable claims of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment is key to upholding the prohibition of such ill-treatment.

‘The report’s revelations pile further pressure on the Home Office in the wake of weeks of campaigning and legal action by the victims and their supporters, including the 30 MPs who recently signed an early day motion calling for an inquiry.

‘It is difficult to recall any previous occasion in which a report containing clear findings of abuse of vulnerable individuals by agents of the state has been heralded by the Government as a victory,’ said PIL.

PIL added on the question of ‘Systematic abuse’: ‘Whilst the report, which focused only upon a six-year period leading up to 2008, states that no positive evidence of systematic abuse could be found, when it is viewed in the light of the cases presented by our clients, a very different picture emerges.

‘Many of the concerns highlighted by Baroness O’Loan are borne out in our clients’ cases.

‘The many stories emerging from Yarl’s Wood corroborate the testimony given by those clients and suggest that, contrary to UKBA Chief Executive Lin Homer’s assertion that allegations by detainees are designed purely to “damage the reputation of (the Government’s) contractors”, they in fact point to serious human rights issues that demand urgent attention.

‘This accords with the recent calls by the Children’s Commissioner for an end to child detention and the concerns previously highlighted by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.’

Jim Duffy of Public Interest Lawyers commented: ‘The O’Loan Report supports the serious allegations made by our clients and suggests that the practice of “outsourcing abuse” continues to thrive.

‘What is now needed is an independent inquiry with a much wider mandate that enables the UK state to fulfil its obligations under the Human Rights Act.

‘For the Government, the O’Loan report is a very worrying stop-gap.’