There have been calls for reform of the UK deportation system following the conclusion of an inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old father of five, who, it was found, was unlawfully killed on a deportation flight from the UK to Angola in October 2010.

The jury at the inquest at Isleworth Crown Court found, by nine votes out of ten, that Mubenga had been unlawfully killed, and that the three G4S guards who had restrained him, using unreasonable force, for over half an hour, would have known that they were causing him harm or serious harm. The guards deny hearing Mubenga calling for help and saying that he could not breathe, despite witnesses from among the other passengers on the plane admitting to having heard him. They also insist that it was Mubenga himself who forced his head down towards his knees, the position that caused his asphyxiation and death.

During the inquest, it emerged that two of the G4S guards concerned had a string of 65 text messages containing ‘very racially offensive material’ saved on their mobile phones.

Amnesty International has said that the inquest should lead to a ‘root and branch overhaul’ of the UK deportation system, saying that “for years it has been an open secret that the removals system is dysfunctional”, and arguing that their research has already highlighted the dangerous restraint methods used by poorly trained private contractors during removals.

Campaigners from the charity Medical Justice have also said that they warned of the dangerous use of force during deportations two years before Mubenga’s death, in a report detailing how deportees have repeatedly been restrained in positions that can cause asphyxiation. They say that to this day these concerns have not been addressed, and that Mubenga’s was a death waiting to happen.

The Guardian has also highlighted continued claims of mistreatment of deportees by poorly trained employees of the private contractor that now provides deportation services for the government in G4S’ place, Tascor, part of the Capita group. An employee of Tascor has reportedly told the Guardian that detainees were punched and assaulted by guards on a recent charter flight to Nigeria.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said, in response to the verdict, that it will reconsider its previous decision not to bring criminal charges against any of the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the campaign group Stop G4S has called on the CPS to consider a charge of corporate manslaughter against G4S.

G4S has released a statement saying that it believes it has acted appropriately at all times.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 12 July 2013
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