Saturday, 16 October 2010

Private security about to be dragged into the UK mainstream?

A minor furore seems to be blowing up around the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man being deported from the UK. From witness statements it appears that there is a possibility that G4S the private security firm contracted to carry out deportations, might have had some role in his death. Witnesses describe him crying out for air and generally seeming distressed.

Now, if I was being deported I'd probably be distressed and I might well shout about ailments I was experiencing to see if I could at least delay the process, so lets set that aside. What is known is that he was being deported, his guards were G4S, and he died in their care.

In the UK, unlike the US, the idea of private security firms really hasnt reached the mainstream. We don't have a domestic Blackwater to focus on. Despite its huge size G4S is best known as Securicorp, and if anyone was asked they'd probably think of the vans delivering money to cashpoints up and down the country.

If I had to guess, which I am doing, I'd say the public will be surprised that private contractors are the people responsible for deportations, and G4S will come in for wider scrutiny than it has done before. Now to be sure they arent the same as Blackwater, and from my (limited) knowledge, they arent operating in the same field, but that won't stop questions being asked.

I imagine if a random member of the public was asked who ran immigration detention centres, and managed the deportation process, they'd say it was the police, or maybe the army. They wouldnt think of G4S or any other private company.

As public pressure mounts and political interest in the role of G4S becomes more acute I'll be curious to see if the public starts to wake up to the fact that 'security' comes increasingly from the private sector and not from the police or state military.

Not that I necessarily mind in this case, but theres a good chance the public might be bothered by it...

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