Roseline’s journey: a kidney transplant patient meets UK Border Agency contractors

Kidney transplant patient Roseline Akhalu was detained by the UK immigration authorities for the second time on Wednesday 16 May and is at risk of deportation to Nigeria where, doctors warn, she will die if she cannot afford medical care. This is Roseline’s account of her first detention in March when, she claims, Border Agency contractors subjected her to cruel and degrading treatment.

Kidney transplant patient Roseline Akhalu was detained by the UK immigration authorities for the second time on Wednesday 16 May and is at risk of deportation to Nigeria where, doctors warn, she will die if she cannot afford medical care. This is Roseline’s account of her first detention in March. Reliance Secure Task Management is a commercial contractor that provides escort services to the UK Border Agency. More details of Roseline’s case follow below her story.

Roseline’s Journey

I write to complain about the cruel and degrading way I was treated by the Reliance staff when they were taking me to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire.  

I am making this complaint to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman because I am completely dissatisfied with the explanation given by Reliance as to why their staff should treat me worst than a criminal. As a detainee I am not a murderer or a terrorist. Given the fact that I am somebody with serious medical condition, that is, kidney, my wellbeing was ignored, my dignity was not considered.

0n 16 March 2012 at about 11 AM I arrived at the UK Border Agency Reporting office for my monthly reporting when I was told I was being detained.  Reliance firm was contracted to transport me from Leeds to Yarl’s Wood. On our way I got the greatest humiliation and embarrassment of my life, because of the cruel and degrading manner I was treated.

I demanded to use the toilet some distance to Manchester; I was told I will be taken to the Police Station to use the toilet. On getting to Manchester, rather than take me to the Police Station to use the toilet the Duty Custody Officers (DCOs) took me to their unit office for a change over of duty. My need for toilet was ignored. I was not allowed to use the toilet in the unit office even when I could see the toilet door from the stationary van where I was held.

As I could no longer endure to hold back my urine, the DCOs gave me a plastic bag to urinate in. At this time I had started urinating on my body and when I eventually used the plastic bag the urine was in the van my hands and body.  I felt very humiliated and upset. It is pertinent to note that I urinated in the full view of the CCTV camera in van. My privacy was not a matter of concern to the DCOs, and my dignity was not respected.

Reliance said plastic bags are used in an emergency situation when it is not possible to use the toilet. But in my case the van was stationed/stopped at their unit, I could see the toilet when I rose to be led there only to be disallowed. Except for malicious cruelty with intent to mentally torture me they knew what was proper to do.

The person investigating the complaint did not state whether or not the detainee made any move or attempted at any time to escape that made them think that it was too risky to allow her use the toilet at the unit office.

This cruel treatment made me suffer a serious urinary tract infection on my arrival at Yarl’s Wood because I had to sit on my wet clothes till we got to Yarl’s Wood at 10.30 PM. I was subsequently treated for this by the Yarl’s Wood doctors. It caused me depression as I still find it difficult to comprehend the whole incident.

They said the journey from Manchester to Yarl’s Wood was uneventful. This was because having been humiliated to sit on my own urine I was too upset to say any word to them.

Issues

The urinary tract infection I suffered was very devastating  and has left me vulnerable to other infections which are dangerous to me a kidney transplant patient;

My privacy was breached and my dignity taken away as I was made to urinate in the full view of a CCTV camera on the van;

I sat in my own urine from Manchester to Yarl’s Wood a cruel treatment that cannot be given to a dog in this country

The whole experience has made me depressed because I still find difficult to think that humans can be so cruel to fellow human.

Roseline Akhalu

 


About Roseline Akhalu’s case:

Roseline Akhalu developed end stage renal failure unexpectedly while she was at the University of Leeds on a study visa. In July 2009 she underwent a kidney transplant at Leeds General Infirmary and she needs to be maintained on immunosuppressant drugs if she is to live. 

Her Consultant, Dr R J Baker, stated in a letter dated 22 November 2010 to her former Member of Parliament Fabian Hamilton that unless Ms Akhalu is able to continue taking her required medication, her transplant kidney will die and she would have to resort to dialysis again. Since she cannot afford the cost of this treatment, the consequence of removing Ms Akhalu would be fatal within a matter of months or even weeks. 

Since 2007 she has been supported by parishioners from St Augustine’s RC Church, Harehills and the St Vincent de Paul Society in Leeds.

She is much loved and respected by her fellow parishioners and many people in the wider community. In spite of her health problems, Roseline has volunteered tirelessly in the parish and is actively involved in a number of community-based groups.

Last Wednesday Roseline was again transported with Reliance escorts from her home in Leeds, and is now in Yarl’s Wood detained far from her doctors, friends and supporters at considerable cost to the tax payer
. No removal directions have been set and the decision to detain was made without knowledge that further legal representations were still pending, leaving her lawyer Hani Zubeidi to declare: “to detain under those circumstances is bewildering.”

Roseline’s MP Greg Mullholland and the Right Reverend John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, have both expressed their support. Greg Mulholland has said:

“The way that the UKBA have handled Roseline’s case has been totally unacceptable, especially given her severe medical condition. The most recent detention, given that she already has an appeal hearing set for the 24 July, is simply a disgrace. Roseline should be released immediately and I have contacted Damian Green, Minister for Immigration, requesting that this happen.”

Dr James Tattersall, one of Ms Akhalu’s consultants at St James Hospital in Leeds is gravely concerned that she will miss her clinic appointment on 23 May if she is not released:

"Roseline has broken no laws. Her kidney failure is not cause by anything she could control. We saved her life by dialysis and transplant while she was visiting the UK. If we send her back to Nigeria, she will not live long, our efforts and generosity will be wasted. Others facing less provable danger are given asylum. Be generous, let Roseline stay.”

There is a petition asking that Roseline Akhalu be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

About the author

Esmé Madill, a consultant in the not for profit sector, works with Shpresa Programme and the Women's Therapy Centre.