Argentine migrant dies during forced deportation - report
On the evening of 30 December 2002 a 52-year-old Argentinian, Ricardo Barrientos, died during an attempt to deport him from Paris Roissy airport on flight Air France 416 heading for Buenos Aires. Barrientos was an undocumented migrant due for expulsion after serving a prison sentence, and was escorted onto the flight by two police officers. He was sat down in the last row, with handcuffs on, before the other passengers embarked, and was held down "bent in two" by the officers, who leaned on his shoulder blades to keep him in this position. After struggling briefly, he died and was taken to the front of the aeroplane "like a sack of potatoes", according to witnesses, and a passenger who was also a doctor certified his death. The subsequent autopsy found that Barrientos died of a heart attack. The police aux frontiers (PAF, border police) claims that it was a "natural death", and that legal procedure was followed by the escorting officers, without violence taking place. In fact, according to the Association nationale d´assistance aux frontiers pour les étrangers (Anafé, National Association for assistance to foreigners at borders):
"This method of making foreigners who are being repatriated fold in two, of holding them down to stop them screaming and alerting passengers, is becoming increasingly widespread".
Air France trade union CDFT criticised "the police brutality" and "the role that the police and Air France force the staff to perform". A statement described events on flight 416:
"Mr. Barrientos was taken on board in a muscular way, and kept bent down in two with firmness by the two police officers escorting him. This was when he died."
This is not the first instance in which "forceful deportation" means the death of a deportee. In 1986 a man from Zaire who was being deported from Belgium died after being restrained with a pillow over his head (see Statewatch vol 8 no 5). In August 1991 Arumum Sivasampu Esan, a rejected Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker, died during the second attempt to deport him to Colombo from France (see Statewatch vol 8 no 5). He died of a heart failure after he was forced onto the plane and bound tightly with a blanket around his thorax to stop him resisting. He was also tied to the seat with his hands and ankles cuffed, and his mouth was temporarily covered with velcro to stop him shouting. After his death some changes were introduced in French deportation procedure, including renouncing to carry out a deportation if the deportee struggled particularly hard to prevent it. On 22 September 1998 Semira Adamu, a 20-year-old Nigerian woman, died on a flight deporting her from Belgium to Nigeria, after she was forced to lean forward with her face in a pillow to keep her quiet (see Statewatch vol 8 no 5). On 1 May 1999 Marcus Ofomuma, a 25-year-old Nigerian man, died on the way to Sofia (Bulgaria) with his hands and feet chained, and gagged with tape over his mouth, during the first stage of his deportation from Austria (see Statewatch vol 9 no 3 & 4). The autopsy conducted in Sofia found that his death was caused by the gag.
Il manifesto 9.1.03; Libération 7, 8.1.03.
Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | Statewatch websites