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Changes sought after mentally ill Ghan­aian dies in immigration detention

06 March 2020

Family handout

Prince Fosu, who died at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in 2012, aged 31.

Prince Fosu, who died at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in 2012, aged 31.

THE death of a mentally ill Ghan­aian in an immigration deten­tion centre shows the need for the Church to demand change, cam­paigners have said.

The Ghanaian, Prince Fosu, died at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in 2012, aged 31. He was the victim of “gross failure” by several agencies, an in­­quest jury found on Monday.

He was left in a segregation unit for six days, stripped of bedding and a mattress, while he suffered a serious mental-health crisis.

He was found lying naked in his cell, covered with uneaten food, urine, and excrement, and died from dehydration, malnutrition, and hypothermia, the jury con­cluded.

The coroner, Chinyere Inyama, said that it was “almost unbeliev­able” that Mr Fosu had been al­­lowed to die “in plain sight” of staff at Harmondsworth IRC.

Both the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Revd Nathan Ward, a former immigration-centre whistle­blower, said that the case revealed how barbaric conditions in Brit­ain’s IRCs could be.

Mr Fosu arrived on a business visitor’s visa in the UK in April 2012, but officials at Heathrow re­­jected his visa on arrival. While he was appealing against this, he was detained by police after passers-by in Kettering saw him walking naked down the road.

He was then sent to Harmonds­worth, where he was quickly as­­sessed as disruptive and placed in a segregation cell.

For six days before his death, he ate barely anything and slept for just 45 minutes. It was discovered afterwards that he had lost 8kg (15 per cent of his body weight) during his time inside the IRC.

Subcontracted health-care staff at the centre failed to notice his wor­­sening mental condition, the in­­quest heard. Instead, they assumed that he was holding a “dirty pro­test” against his detention. Remov­ing his bedding and mattress dem­on­­strated the staff’s “casual ap­­proach” to Mr Fosu’s welfare and con­­tributed to his hypothermia.

The Home Office said after the verdict: “The standard of care Mr Fosu received was unacceptable, and we must never allow this to happen again.”

The prisons and probation om­­buds­man, Sue McAllister, has re­­com­mended that three doctors involved be referred to the General Medical Council, and that disciplin­ary action be considered against Home Office staff at the IRC. “This is a very troubling case. I consider that IRC man­agers were respons­ible for a culture which I can only describe as un­­caring.”

Mr Ward, a self-supporting min­ister in the diocese of Roch­ester, said that the “appalling” case of Mr Fosu was just one of count­less sim­ilar tragedies inside British immig­ra­tion centres. “It is time for the Church institutionally to stand up, draw the line in the sand, and be the prophetic voice.”

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