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UN experts criticize treatment of migrants after deportee dies while in custody of a UK private security company

GENEVA (21 October 2010) – The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, and the Working Group on the use of mercenaries said Thursday they are deeply concerned over reports of the death of a passenger being deported from the United Kingdom on a British Airways flight to Angola, while in custody of the private security company, G4S.

“I am disturbed at seeing the manner in which migrants are being treated, with no dignity at all, due to the criminalization of irregular migration which leads to such a situation,” said the UN independent expert. Mr. Bustamante, who advocates for a human rights approach to migration. Mr. Bustamente added that he would like to remind Governments, private companies and the public of the need to address migrants as human beings with dignity and rights.

Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan national who was being deported from the United Kingdom after losing his appeal to remain in the country, died 50 minutes after boarding a British Airways flight at Heathrow airport on 13 October. Mr. Mubenga was sitting at the rear of the aircraft, surrounded by three guards working for the private security company G4S, which has been contracted by the UK Border Agency to escort deportees.

According to reports, passengers saw three security guards heavily restraining Mr. Mubenga, who they said consistently complained about his breathing and begged for help from the other passengers.

“I hope the fact that British Airways staff responsible for safety and security on board did not intervene, despite numerous cries for help, is not a reflection of a growing indifference to the human rights of persons under custody of an authority,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The Special Rapporteur and the Working Group welcomed the British Government’s investigation into the incident, in order to prevent further tragedies. “It is not the first time that a migrant has died in the process of being deported, but we hope that it will be the last,” the independent experts said, making reference to a similar incident at Zurich airport in March.

“Although G4S employees are not law enforcement officials, they are contracted by the United Kingdom Government to carry out governmental functions outsourced to them and as such, the Government should ensure that they are subject to the same rules as the law enforcement officials who would normally carry out these functions,” said Mr. Nikitin, Chairperson of the Working Group.

The Special Rapporteur and the Working Group recalled the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which provides that such officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, and questioned the outsourcing of the public use of force to private security companies.

ENDS

Jorge A. Bustamante (Mexico), an expert in the field of international migrations, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants by the former Commission on Human Rights in 2005. His mandate was extended by the Human Rights Council in 2008 to help states and others, promote and protect the human rights of migrants. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights. It is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities:, Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Chairperson-Rapporteur - Russian Federation), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain), Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) and Ms. Faiza Patel (Pakistan).

Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Special Rapporteur Jorge A. Bustamante: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/index.htm

Check the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – United Kingdom: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GBIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Fred Kirungi (Tel: +1 917 367 3431, e-mail: kirungi@un.org); Thierry del Prado (Tel: + 41 22 917 9232 , e-mail: tdelprado@ohchr.org); or Catherine Phuong (+41 22 917 92 71 e-mail: cphuong@ohchr.org).