[Pnews] South Asian migrants say they were put in 'body bags' for deportation from US and shocked with Tasers

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 27 11:51:19 EDT 2016


http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/27/south-asian-migrants-body-bags-deportation-us 



  South Asian migrants say they were put in 'body bags' for deportation
  from US

Aviva Stahl - May 27, 2016

A group of south Asian migrants have said they were forcefully placed in 
“body bags” and shocked with Tasers by Immigration and Customers 
Enforcement (ICE) officers as they were being deported from the US, 
allegations that have raised red flags for advocates and immigration 
attorneys.

On 3 April, 85 Bangladeshis, Nepalis and Indians were repatriated on an 
ICE charter flight that departed from Mesa, Arizona, after they failed 
to gain asylum or otherwise secure legal status.

Seven detainees who had been on the flight, have detailed their claims 
of abuse by ICE to the Guardian. According to those interviewed, about 
15 deportees were placed in what they called body bags, believed to 
refer to the “restraint” or “security” blankets occasionally used by the 
agency.**Some individuals were also said to have been shocked with a 
Taser, an allegation which ICE denies.

As some are granted stays of deportation, others say efforts to remain 
in US have been hampered by ineffective counsel and a lack of 
translations of legal proceedings

According to detainees who witnessed the bags being used, to place a 
detainee in a so-called body bag, a group of ICE officers would first 
pin them to the ground, sometimes face-down. The detainee’s body would 
then be tightly wrapped in the security blanket and fastened with a 
series of Velcro belts. Limbs restrained, the deportee could then be 
carried on to the plane.

In a phone interview, 29-year-old Suhel Ahmed, described witnessing his 
fellow detainees being forcefully placed in the body bags.

“That’s something that made us really afraid,” said Ahmed. “And me and a 
lot of fellow detainees started crying and begging [the ICE officers] 
not to do the same thing to us – we told them, ‘we’ll walk, ‘we’ll walk’ 
[on to the plane].”

In an email, an ICE official said ICE officers had used “minimal force” 
during boarding after “approximately a dozen of the detainees refused to 
comply with officers’ instructions and became combative.”

In a subsequent email, ICE added that restraint blankets can be used “in 
exigent circumstances where transporting officers determine they are 
necessary to ensure officer and detainee safety, as was the case in this 
instance.”

About 235,000 people were deported by ICE last year. Charter flights are 
sometimes used when a large number of detainees are being returned to 
the same region.

Since charter flights happen behind closed doors, and deportees have 
little contact with not-for-profit organizations or lawyers once they 
return home, it is difficult to determine whether such accounts of force 
are a rarity, said advocates and lawyers.

“I actually don’t know,” said Paromita Shah, the associate director of 
the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, when 
asked how frequently ICE engages in this kind of conduct during 
removals. “I’m not sure if any of us do.”

“These allegations, if true, are extremely troubling and must be 
investigated,” Shah added.

Immigrant rights advocates have previously referred to ICE as a “rogue” 
agency. In 2007, the agency was sued for forcibly sedating people during 
deportations, a policy it subsequently modified. This year, civil 
liberties groups have documented ICE’s apparent unwillingness to address 
deaths in immigration detention 
<https://www.aclu.org/other/fatal-neglect-how-ice-ignores-death-detention-executive-summary> 
or the abuses endured by transgender women 
<https://www.hrw.org/node/287599/#_ftn8> held in their facilities.

In what an agency spokesperson said was standard ICE practice, all 85 
detainees were handcuffed, and placed in waist and ankle chains, from 
the time they left the detention center until after they landed in Dhaka 
– a period of over 30 hours, according to those interviewed*.* Several 
deportees also said that being shackled for so long had left heavy 
bruising on their wrists and ankles, in some cases for weeks.

Despite ICE’s claim that their officers used “minimal force”, the 
detainees interviewed said that many people were bleeding or had other 
visible injuries as a result of what occurred when they were being 
loaded on to the plane. Some detainees said that ICE officers had 
punched and kicked people, whereas other detainees said the officers 
were very forceful but did not cause intentional harm.

Didar Alam, 29, one of the people who alleges he was placed in a 
security blanket, said he resisted the removal because he feared he 
would be killed if returned to Bangladesh 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/bangladesh>, or put the safety of his 
family at risk. “I don’t want to go back, please don’t send me,” he 
recalled tearfully telling the ICE officers when they placed him in his 
seat. Alam is a member of the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP), which 
has a longstanding rivalry with the ruling Awami League (AL).

Since the 2014 elections, the AL has been accused 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/21/bangladesh-prime-minister-rejects-accusations-of-authoritarian-rule> 
of engaging in extrajudicial killings, “enforced disappearances” and 
mass arrests as a means of repressing political dissent. BNP activists 
have been frequent targets 
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/01/bangladesh-must-investigate-deaths-and-release-prisoners-held-opposition-crackdown/> 
of the violence, which is why Alam – and most of the other men 
interviewed – came to the US to claim asylum.

Suhel Ahmed said he saw four detainees being given “electric shocks” – 
presumably referring to the use of a Taser – as they resisted being 
wrapped in the security blankets, even though those detainees were 
already cuffed. Three other men interviewed also stated they witnessed 
people being given electric shocks by weapons that looked akin to guns.

“My body was shaking [in fear],” said Ahmed, of watching people being 
shocked.

An ICE official denied the Taser**allegation in an email to the 
Guardian, stating that neither ICE deportation officers nor the 
third-party staff present used them. The use of the device is expressly 
permitted in ICE’s use of force policy 
<https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ice-use-of-force-policy.pdf>, 
but the agency official said ICE officers were not issued them.

For the men interviewed, the events of 3 April formed part of another 
traumatic phase in an already perilous journey. Atif Ahsan, 26, said he 
flew from Bangladesh to Dubai to Brazil, then travelled to the US on 
foot or hidden in shipping containers, a trip facilitated by traffickers 
that cost him $26,000. Once on US soil, the men – who travelled 
separately – were immediately detained. Over the fall several of the men 
participated in hunger strikes 
<http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/south-asian-detainees-launch-freedomgiving-hunger-strikes-thanksgiving-n472191> 
to protest about their treatment. Ahsan requested a pseudonym out of 
fear local AL party members, or Bangladesh’s secret police, might track 
him down.

Several detainees said there were hundreds of ICE officers present 
during the removals, and that many were laughing or swearing at the 
deportees as the scene unfolded, even filming it on their phones.

Fahd Ahmed, the executive director of Drum, an New York-based 
immigrants’ rights organization which arranged and provided translation 
for four of the detainee interviews, said://“Trump talks about building 
walls or banning Muslims … while the Obama administration is preventing 
refugees, Muslims and others from seeking safety here, violently abusing 
such migrants, and then colluding with other governments to deport them 
back to their deaths.”

Back in Bangladesh, many of the men deported in April remain in hiding 
and fear for their lives.

“When I came to the US I had a dream – this is the country of peace and 
justice and human rights,” said Khaled Miah, 36, describing why he had 
taken the dangerous trek.

“Now, I don’t even want to say the word, ‘America’.”

/Belal Hossain Biplob contributed reporting from Bangladesh./

-- 
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