The Detention Forum sent the joint letter below to the Guardian in response to their news item on the death of Mr Khalid Shahzad on 30 March 2013. It was reported that Mr Shahzad, an asylum seeker, passed away hours after being released from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport. The letter was unfortunately not published.
The Death of Mr Khalid Shahzad following his release from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre
15 April 2013
As members of the Detention Forum, we are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mr Khalid Shahzad, a Pakistani national, on 30 March (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/14/asylum-seeker-death-investigated), hours after being released from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.
Immigration detention related deaths are occurring with alarming frequency – we are aware of at least five deaths of foreign nationals in detention over the last three years. This is unacceptable.
Detention of ill or vulnerable individuals is not an isolated phenomenon. Over the last 18 months, the UK Border Agency was found to have breached the human rights of severely mentally ill individuals on four separate occasions. They have also been heavily criticized by many NGOs and the Home Affairs Select Committee for not carrying out an independent audit of the statutory requirement, Rule 35, which should act as a safeguard against the detention of vulnerable individuals, including torture survivors.
While we await the outcome of the inquest into Mr Shahzad’s and others’ deaths, it leaves an undeniable impression that the indefinite detention of immigrants and asylum seekers has already played a part in too many tragedies. To prevent any further deaths, and to increase the public’s confidence in the immigration system, we urge the UK government to take immediate steps to overhaul the current policy of detention for administrative purposes. If it was possible to significantly reduce the detention of children, it must also be possible to do the same for adults.
Gill Baden, Bail Observation Project
Michael Collins, Campaigns Coordinator, National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns
Nic Eadie, Director, Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group
Don Flynn, Director, Migrants Rights Network
Sarah Hayward, Campaign Against Bullingdon Immigration Removal Centre
Heather Jones, Coordinator, Yarl’s Wood Befrienders
Pete Keenan, Kent Refugee Help
Ali McGinley, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
Bill MacKeith, Campaign to Close Campsfield
Liz Peretz, Barbed Wire Britain
Jerome Phelps, Director, Detention Action
Erin Power, Executive Director, UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group
Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice
Jacqui Stevenson, Head of Policy, African Health Policy Network
Emma Williams, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Miriam Wood, Chair, Dover Detainee Visitor Group
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, Refugee Council