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.”