“Suspicious” death of Pakistani immigrant in Manchester detention centre

Pennine House next to Manchester Airport's Terminal 2

A Pakistani immigrant from Lahore has been found dead at a detention centre in Manchester.

Tahir Mehmood, 43, was found dead at Penine House located next to Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2 on Friday 26 July in what has been described by a fellow inmate as “highly suspicious” circumstances.

Mr Mehmood was put on a fast-track removal to Pakistan. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) refused his plea for political asylum after he initially refused to leave the centre because he feared police torture and detention.

More than a dozen Pakistanis were detained at the Penine holding facility, but most of them were immediately removed and sent to another detention centre in Dongavale, Glasgow.

Suspicious death

A fellow inmate who cannot be named for legal reasons, who is still at Penine House, told Pakistani media outlet News International that the immigrant came from Lahore and his flight was booked for Pakistan. He said: “He didn’t want to go back. He complained to us that the detention staff had tortured him. He was complaining about heart problems but the detention centre didn’t take care of him and continued to put him under extreme stress. It was clear that he would not go voluntarily. It was clear that he will either collapse or take his own life.”

Waqar Arshad a Pakistani national who is currently detained in Glasgow but has spent time at Penine House, told News International during a phone interview that “the situation is miserable for immigrants in general but Pakistani immigrants in special are meted out the worst kind of treatment. There’s no one to speak for us. Pakistani consulates are here to get us victimised further. UK immigration authorities know our government is weak and will not stand up for our rights.

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“I am so fed up that after spending nine years in Britain, I approached the Home Office on 17th July and expressed my willingness to leave immediately for Pakistan, spending my own money on ticket but I am being kept in detention.”

Arshad said that on Friday night an Iranian asylum seeker tried to hang himself with a rope. He said: “Immigrants are frustrated at how they are treated without any regard to their human rights.”

Official statement 

When approached by News International to confirm the death of Mr Mehmood at its centre, a staff member at Penine House initially put the phone down and then asked their correspondent to contact their press officer who said that the detention centre would provide an update “in due course.”

A Home Office statement stated: “A 43-year-old man from Pakistan died in Pennine House short term holding facility and his death has been reported to the police and the coroner. The family of the deceased have been informed and our thoughts are with the family following this sad news”.

Greater Manchester Police press release stated: “At about 5.20pm on Friday 26 July 2013 police were called to Pennine House, at Manchester Airport. On arrival officers were informed a 43-year-old man had suffered a medical episode and had been treated by medics. Sadly he had died at the scene. A Home Office post mortem examination has been carried out and the police are investigating the circumstances of the death on behalf of Her Majesty’s coroner”.

Pennine House

Pennine House is a 32-bed centre currently operated by Tascor. An inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in March 2010, when the centre was run by G4S, found that: “Detainees had access to 24-hour healthcare, provided by a band eight full-time senior nurse supported by five part-time band six nurses. They worked in a dedicated healthcare room that was accessible by all staff. Four of the nurses were dual qualified in mental health and general nursing, and the lead nurse was a specialist practitioner in community nursing”.

However the most recent inspection, in October 2011, made few findings in relation to health care at the centre, mentioning only a “24-hour health care team” and “on-site health services staff”. It did not indicate how many were part of such a team nor how qualified they were.

The death of the Pakistani follows the death of another Pakistani immigrant at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport. Khalid Shahzad, 52, cut his wrist but the centre failed to attend to him for 30 minutes. He died on March 30, a few hours after being released from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre where he was awaiting his deportation to Pakistan.

Mr Shahzad was extremely ill that doctors had declared him unfit for travel and detention. He was released in a frail condition but the authorities allegedly did not help him reach Manchester via London’s Euston Station. He died on the train from cardiac problems.

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