Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  2. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  3. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  4. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  7. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  9. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  11. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  12. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened