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16 October 2010

Our lives in their hands

The death of an Angolan deportee raises questions about government use of private sector security fi

By Daniel Trilling

The death this week of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being deported to Angola, has thrown the spotlight on to the private security company that was employed to carry out his deportation. G4S, a FTSE 100-listed company that has operations in over 100 countries and is contracted by the British government to run prisons and carry out deportations on behalf of the Home Office.

Over at OpenDemocracy, Clare Sambrook details a catalogue of concerns about the safety record of G4S and other similar companies:

This year, in March, a report by Baroness Nuala O’Loan into allegations of abuse by G4S and other contractors found, “inadequate management of the use of force by the private sector companies”, and made 22 recommendations for change.

Sambrook also highlights the company’s links to government:

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Under Labour, G4S enjoyed a charmed relationship with government, manifested in the £50,000 a year paid to former Home Secretary John Reid after he had left the Home Office but while he was still a serving MP.

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Civil servants, too, seem remarkably loyal to their commercial partners.

The Home Office response to Baroness O’Loan’s findings of “inadequate management of the use of force” was to criticise the people who had brought the company’s abuses to light. Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, accused doctors and lawyers of, “seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors”.

The seeming untouchability of G4S is especially worrying given government plans to outsource more rather than less.