The Home Office has been urged to investigate forced deportations from Britain after audio recorded by HuffPost UK captured an incident in which a detained man was left screaming in pain in front of families with young children on a commercial flight.
The recording, made last month on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, documents a 20-minute incident between a man, who was referred to as Abdul, and at least five border police officers.
Guards can be heard telling him to “shut the fuck up” and warning him the “gloves are off” after they forced him onto the plane. When they are unable to calm him down, they are forced to remove him from the flight.
Families and young children were witness to the distressing incident, and when asked about the event some expressed shock at what they had been forced to witness.
One passenger, who asked to remain anonymous, said upon landing: “They used a lot of force. It was disturbing and also many of the people around us had children who were shocked at all the yelling.
It is not yet known why Abdul was being forcibly deported, or what has happened to him since.
“It shouldn’t be that way. There should be a better process because - as far as we know - he’s not a thief, it’s not a criminal issue,” one passenger said. “And even if it is criminal, it shouldn’t be done that way, everybody has rights.”
Cooper called on the Home Office to urgently investigate what she described as “very disturbing evidence”.
“The Home Affairs Select Committee is already holding an inquiry into the operation of immigration detention and we need to know that there are proper safeguards and standards in place when it comes to removing people from the country.
“We will be raising this with Ministers.”
Sheroy Zaq, an immigration specialist at the legal firm Duncan Lewis, said the recording represents “yet another example of the dehumanisation of foreign suffering at the hands of the Home Secretary.
“There is no attempt to preserve the dignity of those being removed by force, nor is there any consideration of the impact that such treatment has upon the victim or, indeed, those who are forced to witness such desperately distressing incidents.”
Last year 12,666 people were forcibly deported from the UK - an average of nearly 35 people every day, often on commercial flights filled with holidaymakers, families and business travellers.
But unlike the other passengers, detainees arrive accompanied by border police and are often restrained in preparation for being sent back to their country of origin after failed asylum claims, criminal activity, or breaching immigration rules.
Although most deportations happen without incident, some have gone terribly wrong. The process was reformed in 2010 after the tragic death of Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old man who after being restrained on a British Airways flight.
A Home Office spokesperson said of the audio recording: “Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls. It is vital these are carried out with dignity and respect.
“We aim to safely remove people in a way that both minimises the impact on the airlines and their passengers and is fair to the taxpayer.
“While it is regrettable that some people are, or become, disruptive on removal we do our utmost through a risk assessment process to try and minimise any potential impact on the rest of the passengers.”