Another victim of the “foreign criminals” media scandal
It was reported in the Guardian today that a story released by the Home Office and G4S (formerly Group 4 Security, a contractor which handles deportations of failed immigrants to the UK) about how a man was “taken ill” on a plane during a deportation to Angola and “sadly passed away” on arrival at hospital in the UK was false, as witnesses who were on the plane were reporting that the man, Jimmy Mubenga, was in obvious distress on boarding the plane, was heavily restrained by the Group 4 men, complained that he could not breathe:
Michael said he became aware that a man was in distress as soon as he boarded the plane.
“The first thing I saw was the stewardesses running forward. One of them was almost in spasms she was shaking that bad … I saw three men trying to pull [Mubenga] down below the seats. All I could see was his head sticking up above the seats and he was hollering out: ‘Help me’.
“He just kept saying ‘Help me, help me’. Then he disappeared below the seats. You could see the three security guards sitting on top of him from there. And then it went kind of quiet.”
There are differing accounts as to how long Mubenga was restrained. The two previous witnesses estimated he was restrained for 10 minutes and 45 minutes respectively.
Michael, who said he was sitting less than six metres (20ft) from Mubenga, said he watched the security guards on top of him for around five minutes, but then looked away as the plane taxied on to the runway. The flight was later aborted.
“What I am trying to understand is: if the man was putting up such a fuss and a fight that it took three burly security guards to hold him down, why didn’t they take him off the plane?” Michael said. …
“I’m not sure [Mubenga] even got any medical attention until he got back to the terminal,” Michael said. “I didn’t hear anything over the PA: ‘Is there a doctor on board, is there a medic on board?’
“I’m not sure he got any attention from anybody until the medics got there and that was 15, 20 minutes after everything went quiet. Maybe somebody could have revived him if they had been asked. I can give CPR – I’ve been trained in it.”
A fact that is buried in the details of this story, however, is that he was not a recent arrival with a failed asylum claim, but someone who had been living in the UK for 16 years, had a wife and several children still living in Ilford. Four of his children were born in the UK:
The couple [Jimmy and his wife Kambana] had fled Angola in 1994. Today Mubenga’s lawyer, Hani Zubeidi, said he had been a student leader who had fallen out with the regime.
Kambana said: “They killed my father and they threatened to kill Jimmy. They were looking for him. We had no choice but to leave.”
She and her young son arrived in the UK in March 1994 and Mubenga joined them three months later. After a protracted legal battle he was granted exceptional leave to remain. Over the following 16 years the couple moved across London and had another four children. Mubenga worked as a forklift truck driver and was a devoted family man, his widow said, and the couple eventually settled in Ilford in Essex with their children, who are now aged 16 to seven months …
In 2006 Mubenga was convicted of actual bodily harm and sentenced to two years following a brawl in a nightclub. After serving his sentence he was transferred to an immigration detention centre and his lawyer said he has been in and out of detention ever since as the family fought to stop him being deported. It is believed that his criminal conviction was a factor in his deportation.
Well, since none of the rest of the family, particularly the wife, was served with a deportation order and it was Jimmy himself who fell out with the Angolan government, not his wife, it is plain that the reason was his conviction — and more particularly, the media-generated “foreign criminals” scandal, in which the Daily Mail, in particular, kicked up a fuss about the fact that a whole lot of foreigners with criminal records hadn’t been kicked out of the country as soon as they finished their sentence — something nobody had apparently thought of doing before, perhaps because nobody thought to just kick someone out of the country because of anything but the most egregious of crimes, particularly if they were here in the first place because their life was in danger in their home country.
Two others who had been in the UK for a long period, Ernesto Leal and Sakchai Makao, were also threatened with deportation and were reprieved after public campaigns supported by local communities and trade unions. Unlike those two, Mubenga had not been in the UK since he was a child, but he has strong family ties in the UK including several children who have never lived anywhere else. Actual bodily harm is the next level of assault above common assault but below grievous bodily harm, and includes (according to Wikipedia, sourced from the Crown Prosecution Service):
- The loss or breaking of a tooth or teeth
- Temporary loss of sensory function, including loss of consciousness
- Extensive or multiple bruising
- A displaced broken nose
- Minor fractures of bones
- Minor (but not superficial) cuts requiring medical treatment
- A recognised psychiatric disorder
So, not serious lasting injuries (except for the last) and certainly not permanent disability or death. Clearly he deserved to be punished, but certainly not by permanently separating him from his wife and children and sending him back to possible persecution or death, let alone letting him be choked to death by state contractors on a plane. There is a case for repatriating foreign citizens, particularly those who came for economic reasons, when they commit a murder, rape or another very serious offence, but not for breaking someone’s nose in a fight in a pub (at least, not for a first offence). It is entirely disproportionate that a British (or EU) citizen gets two years in jail (likely to be reduced to one) for such an offence, but a foreigner is permanently removed and separated from their partner and children.
The “foreign criminal scandal” is a media trick imported from the USA, which passed a law which allows for the deportation of foreign citizens, even if the convictions were for minor offences, were several years ago and time had already been served; this led, on one occasion, to a German woman, with two children, one of whom had cerebral palsy, who had been adopted as a two-week-old and had lived in the USA ever since, having deportation proceedings launched against her over a scuffle over a boyfriend while still at school, in which someone’s hair was pulled. She was saved only when the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned her following a public outcry, but she had in fact always been entitled to American citizenship, but her adoptive parents never got round to taking it out for her). She was not the only person who had a narrow escape, or was threatened because of a trivial and long-forgotten offence, but others, including those with families and children still in the USA, were expelled for these reasons. The “scandal” was invented in the USA by a governor who was trailing in the polls, so he used immigration and crime as a trump card.
It wasn’t just the individuals deported that paid the price for the unjust American policy — quite innocent people in Latin America, whose cities faced an influx of real career criminals deported from the USA after having emigrated with their parents as children, faced an upsurge in violent crime and gangsterism. The justification was that the offenders had “abused the hospitality” of the host nation, as if they were given the red carpet treatment and provided for in everything, and as if some of them hadn’t also made a positive contribution, working for a living, paying taxes, raising children. It all pales into insignificance in comparison to providing a human sacrifice to the popular press and to bureaucrats seeking to justify their existence. We ought to realise that the popular press is a commercial entity, it exists solely to make money and will print whatever garbage will fulfil that aim. Rather than deliver any more sacrificial goats, I suggest delivering tougher regulations than the toothless Press Complaints Commission can muster. At a time when economic conditions are tough, attacking minorities, foreigners and other easy targets is an easy way to divert people from their hardship and sense of uncertainty; since they do not care who they hurt, someone else has to take care of that instead, namely, the government, and the law.
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