Tuesday

15th Oct 2019

Investigation

Private firms put price tag on migrant suicides

  • 3,142 people were in detention in the UK as of June 2013 - the highest figure since 2008 (Photo: Casciani)

Private security companies operating UK-based immigrant removal centres (IRC) use formulas to calculate the profit loss incurred by detainees who commit suicide under their watch.

A handful of immigrants, set for deportation, have managed to kill themselves at the facilities over the years. The UK Border Agency, has in some other cases, refused to disclose the cause of death.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Attempted suicides have reached an historic as has the number of detainees on suicide watch.

There were 96 incidents of attempted self-harm needing medical treatment between April to June, a 24 percent increase compared to the first three months of the year. Another 750 detainees are deemed to be at risk of self-harm, a 42.5 percent increase over the same period, according to statistics provided by the UK Border Agency.

The profit formula is based on a performance point system that attributes numerical figures to a list of possible infractions based on a self-auditing process.

The points are tallied every month - run through a separate formula - attributed a monetary value, and then deducted from the operational fees paid out by the UK government.

Private security company Serco Ltd., which operates Colnbrook IRC at Heathrow airport, signed a 120-month contract with the UK Immigration Service in 2003.

Some 40,000 detainees have passed through the centre, which can house up to 440 men and woman in separate facilities.

Its inventory list, appended to the contract, includes everything from balaclavas, riot boots, police batons, sledgehammers, to a "wall mounted insect killer with shatter proof tubes."

If a Serco guard forgets to lock a door at Colnbrook, then the company is fined 50 points. If a detainee is caught climbing onto the roof, it is fined 10 points.

Fifty points are given if a guard fails to report an incident of torture to the manager.

An incident resulting in self-harm is 20 points.

Suicide is 300 points.

The sum is then entered into a formula to determine how much they get paid, although the monetary value of the points is redacted in the contract.

A Serco spokesperson said he was unable to provide the value because the data belongs to the UK Home office.

“You would therefore have to approach them and ask them for the information, rather than us,” he said in an email.

But the UK Home Office refused to disclose the information. It says the data is "commercially sensitive."

“Private contractors must meet stringent requirements and be able to demonstrate they can provide security and value for money for the taxpayer,” said a Home Office spokesperson in an emailed statement.

He added: “We want our immigration staff to be out on the front line, not acting as security guards or running immigration services.”

Serco, for its part, is under investigation after a 52-year old Pakistani man died within a few hours following his release from Colnbrook in late March.

He was found dead traveling alone on a train towards Manchester.

Medical screening performance points are only attributed within the first 24-hours of admission.

At Colnbrook, they are worth 20 points.

The UK Border Agency has refused to disclose why a 35-year old American was found dead at Colnbrook in July 2011. A Pakistan national also died in Colnbrook in July 2011 but the cause of death has not been made public.

Serco also runs the Yarls Wood IRC which houses women and children.

Serco’s Colnbrook contract is currently up for renewal. The tender, issued in April, says it is worth around €7 million for each year until 2018.

Manuel Bravo, an Angolan national living in Leeds was taken by immigration officials with his 13-year old son in the early morning hours of 14 September 2005.

They were sent to Yarls Wood where the next day Manuel hanged himself in a stairwell, reportedly to ensure his son would remain in the UK.

The performance point system in more recent contracts is scaled up when compared to Serco’s Colnbrook older 2003 contract.

Whereas self-inflicted injuries costs 400 points per incident, points attributed to a suicide are blocked out in the latest contracts unlike at Colnbrook. A suicide at Colnbrook is 15 times more expensive than a self-inflicted injury.

Using the same scale, a detainee who commits suicide at Harmondsworth, the EU’s largest immigration facility near Heathrow airport, may cost the contractor 6,000 points.

Harmondsworth was contracted out to the Geo Group for 98 months in January 2009. In April alone, some 24 detainees required medical treatment due to self-harm, more than any other IRC except for Brook House, which registered 26. Brook House is run by G4S, the world’s largest private security company.

But it was at Harmondsworth where 84-year old Alois Dvorzac from Canada died in February after becoming ill.

He was reportedly “extremely distressed” before being rushed to a hospital. He died later that day after suffering a suspected heart attack.

The facility registered its latest suicide in 2006, when a 26-year old from Eritrea was found hanged in the showers.

G4S, which was under investigation after three guards suffocated a 46-year old Angolan man to death in 2010, operate Brook House and Tinsely House IRCs.

Both IRCs are up for tender for a total of around €14 million each year.

G4S also refused to provide a monetary value on the point system. They say it is commercially sensitive and that requests should be directed to the UK Home Office.

For its part, the European Commission says rules regarding the operation of detention centres by private security companies is a matter for member states.

The EU asylum laws only contain rules on the grounds for detention of asylum seekers, guarantees for detained applicants and conditions of detention.

The commission says these rules must be applied in all cases, regardless of the private or public nature of the body operating the centre where asylum seekers are detained.

Russians top EU asylum seekers

The EU saw the highest number of asylum seekers come from Russia at the beginning of this year, with Syrians following closely behind.

Gaddafi-tainted firm scoops EU contract

An EU IT agency has awarded a contract to a firm linked with the late Colonel Gaddafi’s efforts to track and torture people during the Libyan revolution.

News in Brief

  1. OSCE: Polish elections spoiled by 'homophobic rhetoric'
  2. Barcelona airport clashes after Catalan leaders jailed
  3. US: Erdogan responsible for possible Isis 'resurgence'
  4. Irish foreign minister: Brexit deal 'possible this week'
  5. UK refuses to join EU arms ban on Turkey
  6. Denmark plans to strip foreign fighters of citizenship
  7. Spain issues European arrest warrant for Puigdemont
  8. Possible delay to launch of new EU commission

Investigation

EU proposes pesticide ban, but key documents still secret

Time is running out for chlorpyrifos, the pesticide which is a cause of brain damage to human fetuses and newly-born children. The EU Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have both stated approval should not be renewed.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us