A British police officer stands guard outside Harmondsworth detention centre in west London in July 2004. A report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons reveals a Canadian man died there last year after being declared unfit for detention and in need of "social care". Toby Melville/Reuters
An elderly Canadian man suffering from dementia died in a British deportation centre while still wearing handcuffs, even after doctors declared him unfit for detention, new documents reveal.
The 84-year-old man, identified by officials as Alois Dvorzac, had been wearing handcuffs for about five hours and died while still wearing them, according to the documents from her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.
The report says the man arrived at Gatwick Airport near London on Jan. 23, 2013. He was refused entry into the country and immediately taken to the Harmondsworth immigration removal centre in west London, where he was held for almost three weeks.
On Jan. 30, 2013, a doctor at the centre diagnosed the man with Alzheimer’s disease and declared him unfit for detention. The doctor’s report stated: "Frail, 84 yrs old, has Alzheimer’s disease … demented. UNFIT for detention or deportation. Requires social care."
A caseworker didn't respond to the doctor’s report until a week later, on Feb. 5, when it was acknowledged that the man was vulnerable and lacked contacts in the country.
The next day, attempts to take the man out of the centre were called off after a doctor declared him unfit to fly, and he was returned to Harmondsworth.
'Required social care'
He was taken to a hospital on Feb. 8 and then again two days later.
“He had been in handcuffs for approximately five hours when he died, still wearing them,” the report said, but did not reveal the cause of death.
Harmondsworth, which is run by the U.K. Home Office, is located near London’s Heathrow Airport and accommodates about 600 people. It’s meant to hold detained immigrants until their cases are resolved or until they can be deported.
The inspectorate’s report criticized the centre for the way it deals with detainees who are elderly or have mental health issues.
In the case of the Canadian man, it says “detention seemed to have been used as an inappropriate default for a man who required social care.”
The details of the elderly man’s case came to light after the Inspectorate of Prisons conducted an unannounced inspection of Harmondsworth in August. The new report contains a number of criticisms against the centre, calling it dirty, bleak, overcrowded and "in a state of drift."
Harmondsworth has refused to comment without permission from the U.K.’s Home Office.
"Our thoughts are with the family of the Canadian deceased in the U.K.," Mathieu Roy, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, said in a written statement. "Canadian consular officials are in contact with local authorities concerning the matter."
The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada said it is “deeply saddened” by the incident.
“This tragic incident demonstrates the need for better understanding of the significant challenges that people with dementia face,” it said in a statement to CBC News. “As the disease progresses, people with dementia typically have difficulty expressing their needs and coping with an unfamiliar environment.”