Dying for Justice: Joy Gardner, We Remember You

Last week, the Institute of Race Relations launched Dying for Justice, an account of Black and Minority Ethnic persons’ suspicious deaths in custody between 1991 and 2014: 509 dead; 0 convictions. The geography of suspicious deaths is 348 in prison; 137 in police custody; 24 in immigration detention. “Only two people have died following restraint in the deportation process itself in the UK, the first was Joy Gardner in 1993, the second Jimmy Mubenga in October 2010.” Only two? This is the story of Joy Gardner.

Gardner died four days after going into a coma following a deportation raid. During the raid, an immigration official and five metropolitan police officers gagged her with thirteen feet of adhesive tape and applied a body belt and handcuffs. She had come to the UK in 1987 on a six-month tourist visa, and given birth to a son. In 1990 when she married, she applied to regularise her stay on compassionate grounds, but was refused.

A deportation order was issued in 1992 but she was not located. Then, in 1993, when she had been, her lawyer was told of her proposed deportation in two letters dated 26 and 27 July. On 28 July, before the letters had even been opened or Joy had any idea of what was planned, three police officers (from the alien deportation Group/ So1(3)), two uniformed local police officers and an immigration officer called early in the morning at her home in Crouch End to put her and her son on a 3pm flight to Jamaica. A struggle ensued, part of which was witnessed by her son. Joy apparently removed her t-shirt and began shouting that she would rather die than go back, and was shoved to the floor where the two local police officers sat across her legs, the female ADG officer across her midriff and another near her head. One of the ADG officers placed the body belt around her waist, her wrists were secured to the handcuffs which were in turn secured to the body belt. Her ankles and thighs were further bound with two leather belts. Thirteen feet of elastic adhesive bandage were then wrapped around Joy’s head and across her mouth as she was ‘still shouting or screaming’ … A post-mortem ordered by Joy’s mother found that she had died as a result of oxygen starvation. Other post-mortems also found that the lack of oxygen in combination with being gagged led to her death.”

Three officers were charged with manslaughter. In 1995, all were cleared.

Joy Gardner’s mother, Myrna Simpson, has campaigned ever since to secure something like justice. She describes going into the hospital to see her dead daughter: “I asked one officer there ‘Why didn’t you all get her solicitors? Why did you do her bad? She’s not a criminal, she’s not done any crime. She’s a mother of two children. Why did you do that?’ I spoke and said I wouldn’t like it to happen to no one else but police is killing people and more so black people … we are not bad people. I’ve come to this country and I’ve worked in this country, myself, my husband, my brothers, my sisters. My father came to this country and we build up this country. We have worked hard to make this country what it is today. We are the ones who have worked and built up this country to what it is so that people can come here and be free in this country. I am now a pensioner. I came here when my first born was in this country and I’ve worked hard in this country and I’ve not got in trouble with the law and I’ve abided by the law of this country and they’ve killed my daughter. They have taken my daughter from me, my first child that I had. The most time I had with her was when she came to this country because I left her in Jamaica to go to send back for her, but things didn’t work out the way I’d planned it because things were very cheap then. Labour was cheap, we was cheap labourers and we laboured from eight o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening. On Saturday we went to work as well until one o’clock just to make up the money maybe for five or six pounds a week and we had to work and sacrifice ourselves and still there’s no justice. But we need justice for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.”

Joy Gardner, 1993; Jimmy Mubenga, 2010; Christine Case, 2014. How many more Black women and men will have to die for justice?

 

(Photo Credit: https://stopdeportations.wordpress.com/jamaica/)

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood. Nothing to be seen here; move along; just another Jamaican woman in Yarl’s Wood. “One more dead body behind the walls of Britain’s detention centres.” One more dead woman. That’s all.

Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners tell a different story. They say Christine Case was denied medical assistance. It’s also been claimed that local National Health Service doctors who offered assistance to distressed prisoners after Case’s death were turned away.

Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claims they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” And yet … Christine Case is dead.

Some say Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and that the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains. Not for severe pains, and especially not for severe chest pains.

Emma Mlotshwa, of Medical Justice, noted: “We are shocked but not surprised to hear of this tragic death. Any death in immigration detention is avoidable as immigration detention is optional. Our volunteer independent doctors have seen an alarming number of incidents of medical mistreatment. The only thing we are surprised about is that there have not been more deaths.”

People have questions. The immigration minister promises, yet again, yet another investigation.

Meanwhile, Yarl’s Wood is in lockdown. Yarl’s Wood is a house of women’s fear and women’s mourning … and women’s solidarity.

Four years ago, almost to the day, women prisoners, asylum seekers all, at Yarl’s Wood organized a massive hunger strike. 35-year-old Jamaican asylum seeker Denise McNeil was identified as a `ringleader’, moved to another prison, and placed in solitary. The Yarl’s Wood women hunger strikers took the calculus of violence and turned it on its head. They said they are better than that, they are women, fighters used to fighting, peacemakers used to making peace, and no one decides that it is right for them to be slaughtered.

The world paid attention … for a minute.

Twenty-one years ago immigration officers killed Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. What has changed since then? The killing now takes place behind walls and bars.

For some, the handling of women asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood `puts the UK to shame.’ It does, but it does more than that. It shames the world, where this is the allotted fate for far, far too many women. Black women. Immigrant women. Women.  A woman died that night.

 

(Photo Credit: Handout / BBC)

And Jimmy Mubenga is dead

 


Jimmy Mubenga came to England seeking asylum, seeking life. According to his wife, Makenda Kambana, he was on a government hit list, “They killed my father and they threatened to kill Jimmy. They were looking for him. We had no choice but to leave.” Earlier this week, on Tuesday, October 12, Mubenga boarded a plane for Angola, having lost his last battle for asylum in the UK. Within 50 minutes on the plane, he was dead.

Witnesses report that the guards, G4S private deportation `escorts’, jumped on Mubenga and throttled him to death.  Escort deportation has become big business. Most of the 11 immigration removal centers in the UK are run by private firms, in particular G4S, GEO Ltd or Serco.

MPs are calling for an investigation, the former chief inspector of prisons as well. Many informed will raise their voices and eyebrows and hands in surprise and dismay at the violence. Charges of `excessive force’ and `brutality’ are heard across the land.

But Jimmy Mubenga is dead. As are …

Kenyan asylum seeker Eliud Nyenze, who collapsed in April this year at Oakington detention center, run by G4S. Nyenze complained of intense pain, so bad he was reduced to crawling around on the floor, begged for painkillers, and was denied any sort of medical attention. He died in excruciating agony.

Manuel Bravo, an Angolan asylum seeker who in September 2005 was found dead, hanged, in Yarl’s Wood.

Joy Gardner, a Jamaican woman applying for compassionate leave to stay in Britain, killed in front of her five year old son and her mother, September 1993.

These are the prominent, the recorded, names that have come up in discussions of Jimmy Mubenga’s death. Their deaths, the manner of their deaths, the impunity of those who killed them, is said to haunt the story of Jimmy Mubenga. The passengers on that British Airways flight are described as “haunted by the last cries of a dying man.” Understandably. The nation is haunted.

But Jimmy Mubenga is dead, and will remain so. He is not haunted by the past, but his name, his death, is haunted by the future. He is haunted by those who continue to seek asylum.

On Wednesday, October 13, the day after Jimmy Mubenga was killed, Malawian Florence Mhango and her ten-year-old daughter Precious were again blocked from receiving asylum. Precious is seeking asylum because she and her mother fear that if returned to Malawi, by law her estranged father can force her into marriage.

On Thursday, October 14, it was announced that the four-year ban on repatriating Zimbabwean failed asylum applicants would be lifted. Why? Because the Unity Government of Zimbabwe has worked.  That many, including the Zimbabwean diasporic and overseas communities, believe that the situation is worsening, that a bloodbath may very well be imminent, is of no matter. That Robert Mugabe, on Friday, called for national elections whether or not the constitution has been passed, is of no matter.  That the violence continues is of no matter.

What is important is that the Zimbabweans be sent back, be sent out. Take EM, an MDC member raped and beaten by policemen in her own home, send her back, because she has failed the test of asylum. Take Pauline Enagbonma, an albino woman who fears for her safety as an albino in Zimbabwe, and send her and her three young children back, children who have spent the majority of their lives in the UK. Take Nokuthula Ngazana and her famous 18 year old daughter Gamu, and send them back. Nokuthula Ngazana came to the UK, with her daughter, to study. Home Office claims she filed for visa extension “out of time”, and since Gamu was listed as her dependent on the application, she too must leave. Send them all back, along with all those whose names go unrecorded.

Seize them and you shall seize the day.

Send them all back for they have failed the test of asylum. In the protection of the State, there is no excessive force, there is no brutality. Those notions, like Nokuthula Ngazana’s application, are out of time.

Precious Mhango haunts Jimmy Mubenga, Gamu Nhengu haunts Jimmy Mubenga. The tens of thousands of children, of women and men seeking asylum and those who in the future shall seek asylum in the United Kingdom, they haunt Jimmy Mubenga.

And Jimmy Mubenga is dead.

 

(Photo credit: irr.org.uk)