Stephanie Toumi – an indictment of our immigration system
Jess McCabe // 30 June 2008
26-year-old Stephanie Toumi was on the first leg of a forced journey back to Cameroon. Her asylum claim had been rejected, and she’d already passed through the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Whether or not she ‘deserved’ to stay in this country is moot. She was deported – and during that process, she was allegedly beaten so badly that she now needs to use a wheelchair, and so badly that Belgian immigration officers refused to allow security guard to put her on the plane to Cameroon. When she cried, the guards abused her using sexist language.
The Independent says:
Ms Toumi alleges she was assaulted by four Group 4 Securicor (G4S) guards when she approached BA staff on the plane to inquire about her luggage.
She alleges: “The escorts threw themselves on me. One scraped me and I fell on my stomach, the other trapped my arms, twisting them behind and the other two put on handcuffs. I felt a very severe pain in my body and I wanted to twist my right foot to get up, but one of them totally paralysed this foot by giving me a sharp blow with his knee.
“When they finished handcuffing me one of them caught hold of my hair to lift me up. I felt ill as I have never felt ill all my life.” She alleges that when she started crying, the guards said: “Shut up, stupid whore.”
At Brussels airport, where the escort and the asylum-seeker were due to catch a flight to Cameroon, Belgian immigration officers noticed Ms Toumi was now unable to walk unaided and informed the escorts they would have to take her back to the UK.
An independent doctor’s report found her injuries were due to the alleged assault. Ms Toumi has lost the use of the wheelchair, so cannot make her way to the Yarl’s Wood dining hall.
Sick to your stomach yet?
Today a report by the Independent Asylum Commission (IAC) calls on the Home Office to only employ forced removals as a last resort and authorise “dawn raids” by immigration officers only in extreme circumstances. Eight months ago another woman was so badly injured during her removal that the Cameroon government refused her entry and sent her back to Britain. Beatrice Guessie, 29, returned to the UK in a wheelchair but the Home Office dismissed her allegations of abuse. Both women are bringing legal actions against the Home Office.