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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced that, nearly four years after the death of Jimmy Mubenga, three guards will now face manslaughter charges.
Mubenga died on a plane at Heathrow Airport while facing deportation to Angola in 2010. Witnesses on the plane had seen G4S guards holding his head down while he was shouting that he could not breathe - he was later declared dead from cardio-respiratory collapse.
This is a huge U-turn by the CPS. Previously, after a 17 month investigation, they decided in 2012 that despite Mubenga's death being caused by the way he was restrained, there was "insufficient evidence" to bring about charges.
Mubenga's family had carried out a tireless campaign for justice, including a letter to the CPS earlier this year demanding action.
Deportation of asylum seekers is carried out by private security firms in the UK. At the time of Mubenga's death the contract had been awarded to the notorious G4S.
A number of employees blew the whistle about the "potentially lethal force" that was being used during deportations and several studies into various security firms show that violence is endemic, not just the actions of a few individuals.
Reliance took over the contract later in 2010 and one of their internal memos referred to "aggressive and loutish" behaviour of their staff.
One of the dangers of the privatisation of services like this is that greedy companies cut corners in their quest for profit.
A report by the coroner investigating Mubenga's death found that G4S employees were employed on zero-hour contracts and were 'rewarded' with extra pay if they were able to keep detainees quiet before planes took off.
On top of this, staff were not qualified and were encouraged to carry out dangerous restraint techniques such as the one which killed Mubenga.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident for asylum seekers in Britain. Many complaints have been made about the "degrading behaviour" that vulnerable people, including torture victims, are subjected to in institutions such as the Asylum Screening Unit.
This, coupled with racist government policies and the establishment parties promising to be "tough on immigration", mean that the voices of asylum seekers are not heard.
Socialists defend the right to asylum and completely oppose private security firms running any of our services, which should be publicly owned, accountable and run democratically.
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Article dated 26 March 2014
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