The devastating death of Prince Fosu, a Ghanian national and asylum seeker in the UK, consolidates years of warnings from officials about the horrific treatment of detainees in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).
Mr Fosu was a vulnerable man who died from hypothermia, dehydration and malnutrition in Harmondsworth IRC near Heathrow.
He had initially arrived in Britain on an approved business visitor visa in April 2012 but was refused when he arrived in London, which he then appealed against.
After the failed appeal in September, his mental health quickly deteriorated. A passer-by even reported Prince to the police after seeing him walk naked down the road but, rather than section Mr Fosu, a mental health assessment in Corby police station ruled he did not qualify and that he was instead fit to be detained in an IRC.
Only six days inside the IRC, he sadly passed away.
Only six days inside the IRC, he sadly passed away
Mr Fosu was suffering from psychosis yet did not go on to receive adequate care. Four GPs, two nurses, two Home Office contract monitors, three members of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) and various detention custody officers and managers did not take “meaningful” steps to support him, the inquest into his death has ruled.
Mr Fosu was living in squalor conditions – without even bedding or a mattress. His cell was found to be covered in faeces, urine and food, a situation Prisons and Probations Ombudsman spokesperson Sue McAllister rightly labelled “inhuman and degrading.”
The 31-year old suffered and died “in plain sight”, the inquest found, as he had reportedly only sipped a cup of tea and slept for less than an hour in the six days under the IRC’s care. Throughout his tiny but traumatic time in detention, Prince lost 18 pounds, weighing a mere 7 stone 6 at the time of his death.
Mr Fosu was observed by staff in this state and yet his cell remained filthy and he was not given access to food, fluid or appropriate resources to keep him warm.
The complex needs of often highly vulnerable individuals has brutal, and sometimes fatal, consequences [when in IRCs]
The jury concluded that the decision to remove Mr Fosu’s bedding and mattress had no lawful written authority and indicated the “casual approach” staff had towards his mental state. Staff’s failure to address Mr Fosu’s distress was “inexplicable” while healthcare staff demonstrated “insufficient professional curiosity”.
Three doctors are facing consequences issued by the UK’s medical watchdog for these alleged failures, as recommended by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).
The inquest found that there was no support available to Mr Fosu during his short and fatal stay in Harmondsworth, labelling policies as “grossly ineffective” with “gross failures” across the board, with all agencies involved failing Mr Fosu.
As ImmiNews has warned with Serco taking over other IRCs this year, these outsourced companies’ main drive is to cut costs aggressively
Mr Fosu’s Father, Prince Obeng, said: “Prince was unwell and obviously needed medical attention but instead he died in the most degrading and painful way on a cold cell floor, surrounded by debris.”
Director of INQUEST, Deborah Coles, labelled Prince Fosu’s death as a “direct result” of the hostile environment: “This reinforced a toxic culture of indifference and neglect, where professionals who came into contact with Prince were simply unable to see the human being before them.”
The jury heard how the healthcare provisions in the IRC were in “chaos” due to a badly managed turnover of the provider. As ImmiNews has warned with Serco taking over other IRCs this year, these outsourced companies’ main drive is to cut costs aggressively. This means the complex needs of often highly vulnerable individuals has brutal, and sometimes fatal, consequences.
Staff informed the inquest that they put Mr Fosu’s behaviour down to protesting his removal as opposed to a sign he was experiencing severe mental health issues, highlighting Deborah Coles’ comments regarding the culture of indifference.
Mr Fosu’s Father visits his son’s grave in South London to pray God will give him a better place to stay.
How shameful that Britain was responsible for being such a cruel, cold place while he was alive.
[Header image: Emiliano Bar/Unsplash].