UK: Tragic death of asylum-seeker

UK Green Party Press release, Tuesday, November 27, 2001

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Tragic death leads to call for halt to asylum seekers snatch squads in London

"Metropolitan Police Authority member, Jenny Jones, has called for a halt to the activities of the Immigration Service 'snatch squads' in London, and is urging the Government to review the high pressure targets it has imposed on the Service. Her comments follow the death of a man over the weekend in South London after he fell from a third floor window, whilst trying to escape police and immigration officers. Jenny warned in September that an increase in such incidences and deaths was a possible consequence of the planned ten fold increase in the arrests of failed asylum seeker in London.

Jenny Jones said: "I am saddened and shocked by this death. My condolences go out to his family. I'm sure that all of us on the Metropolitan Police Authority will want to know why such a terrible incident happened. I welcome the swift action which the Mayor is taking to ensure that this tragedy is fully investigated."

The Immigration Service plans to dramatically increase the number of failed asylum seekers it picks up in London from 10 people a day to a massive 80-100 people a day. Jenny has echoed Mayor Ken Livingstone's concerns about the effect on community relations of having snatch squads operating on such a huge scale.

Jenny Jones believes "there should be an immediate halt to the operation of the asylum snatch squads in London and the Government should urgently review the targets it is imposing upon the Immigration Service. A ten fold increase in arrests of failed asylum seekers could mean more such deaths and incidents. We should listen to the concerns of senior police officers who have been warning for several months that there is a real danger that we will see a repeat of the public order problems and explosions of anger which came after the death of Joyce Gardner."

The Police Authority was not consulted on these plans to dramatically increase the daily arrests. An MPA report in September identified several risks which would result from this increase in Immigration Service (HMIS) activity against failed asylum seekers. It highlighted concerns that such action was "likely to generate community tension and possibly a requirement for public order maintenance".

The report also points out that "In the event of a death or serious injury occurring while a person is detailed, it is highly likely that there will arise a public perception that the fault lies with the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service)." The Police Authority is clearly disturbed by possible negative impact on their work. "Assisting HMIS with the detention and repatriation of failed asylum seekers may hinder our efforts to improve relations with the broader community of asylum seekers, particularly in resect of our work to reduce hate crime."

Jenny Jones warns that "none of us want a repeat of the Joyce Gardner tragedy and the resultant riots in London. The Police Authority has not been consulted on the plans for a tenfold increase in the number of daily arrests in London. This is an unrealistic strategy dreamed up in Whitehall, leaving both Londoners and the Metropolitan Police to pick up the pieces."


Notes to editors

1. The MPA Report quoted: 'Use of MPS Custody Facilities by Her Majesty's Immigration Service'.

See previous story on Statewatch News online: Report

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