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Patel’s Policies for the Detention of Immigrants Found to be Unlawful

Patel’s Policies for the Detention of Immigrants Found to be Unlawful

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday April 27 2021

A court ruling has found Home Secretary Priti Patel is accountable for failing to ensure that proper investigations took place into deaths occurring in immigration centres, as well as finding three of Patel’s detention policies to be in breach of human rights laws. These rulings come after the death of Oscar Lucky Okwurime, who was found dead in his cell on 12 September 2019 at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre. Patel also attempted to deport a key witness to the incident.

Patel’s policies relating to immigrants and recent actions highlight a long-running undermining of fundamental human rights, as well as a lack of due regard for the rule of law.

Immigrants that find themselves in immigration removal centres are not being given proper care and their medical needs are being neglected. Okwurime’s death was ruled as unnatural following a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which occurs due to hypertension. Although on 22 August 2019 Okwurime’s blood pressure reading showed hypertension, readings were not repeated in what has been deemed a ‘result of multiple failures to adhere to healthcare policy’. Such findings determine that Okwurime’s death was the result of neglect. As Okwurime was being held in a UK Government facility, it is the legal responsibility of the Government and Patel to ensure his safety and wellbeing, along with all those being detained. This blatant disregard for the lives of immigrants like Okwurime brings into question the Government’s commitment to preserving both human rights and life.

Patel’s actions also question her commitment to a fair investigation of Okwurime’s death. Her attempt to deport Ahmed Lawal, a key witness to the death of Okwurime, is being treated by the courts as unlawful on the basis that she failed to ensure his evidence was secured before initiating deportation proceedings. The lack of a policy which determine what should happen in the event of a death in an immigration centre was also found to be unlawful, the courts stipulating a need for such policy. This failure to conduct a thorough investigation of Okwurime’s death is particularly worrying as it sets a dangerous precedent regarding the Government’s treatment of immigrants.

Despite the court ruling that Patel’s actions and policies are unlawful, it is unlikely that Patel will face repercussions. The Home Office has released a statement saying they will ‘refresh’ their ‘current processes’ by introducing a checklist ‘to ensure that all potential witnesses are identified’. No mention is made of legal proceedings against Patel or of a call to overhaul existing policies. Nor is there any mention of compensation regarding Okwurime’s death as a result of neglect by authorities. This reveals a culture of impunity within the Government and an approach that treats immigrant lives as dispensable.

These events have occurred in the context of Patel’s draconian immigration policies, such as the strengthening of the ‘Hostile Environment’ policies designed to clamp down on irregular migration to the UK, as well as Patel’s dangerous rhetoric against human rights lawyers. This has resulted in actions which show a deliberate lack of care by Patel and the Home Office for the lives of immigrants, with harsh policy and language, manufactured for political gain, creating a situation of unfairness and negligence towards immigrants. 

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Government and Priti Patel as the Home Secretary to ensure that those in their care, whether being held for deportation or to be given asylum, are not neglected. This incident is a tragedy, forming part of a wider web of Patel’s hard-line approach towards irregular migration and vulnerable communities. MEND calls upon policy makers to commit to the preservation of life, fundamental human rights, the rule of law and ultimately the reversal of lethal ‘Hostile Environment’ policies.

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