Nigerian man who died in UK detention centre was denied medical attention, his brother says

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It has been claimed that a Nigerian man who died in his cell at a UK detention centre had told authorities at the centre that he was feeling unwell but he was not provided with medical attention.

Oscar Okwurime, 34, was discovered lying in his cell at the Harmondsworth removal centre by another detainee last week. The cause of his death is unknown but the Home Office said it was being investigated.

His older brother told The Independent that the deceased said he was feeling unwell during his first week in the removal centre.

His older brother, 44, who asked to be identified as Alex told The Independent: “I told him straight away: tell the authorities there and they will get you checked.”

But Alex said authorities did nothing.

Alex said: “That first week, they didn’t do anything. And the second week he said they were still saying nothing. The last time I saw him, he told me he was on a waiting list of about 400. He said he was feeling pain in his side. He hadn’t had any health issues before”

He added: “It was a pure case of negligence. If someone is in your custody and telling you they’re not feeling well, it’s your duty of care to get them checked.”

Alex said that before his brother’s death he had been detained around three weeks when he entered the country on a visitor’s visa and told the authorities he wished to seek asylum.

Alex said of his brother’s death: “I’m feeling so livid now. Any time I’m alone, I’m in tears. It’s terrible, It’s very painful. I don’t know what to do.”

A former detainee who was close with Mr Okwurime while he was in Harmondsworth said his friend hadn’t been feeling well and that he had wanted to see a doctor but that “this was not a quick process” in the detention centre.

According to The Independent, the man, who did not want to be named, was released from the centre the night before Mr Okwurime died.

News of his friend’s death came as a shock to him because Mr Okwurime had walked him to the gate to see him off just hours earlier.

He said: ““He carried one of my bags. We were laughing together. Then I called him up early in the morning, just to chat, and he didn’t answer and then later on someone called me to say he had died. I’m still in shock now. I’ve heard he was screaming. There’s a button in the room but they don’t always come. They’re supposed to check through the door in the night. Why didn’t he get help on time?”

He added: “Was he suffering from high pressure? I remember him telling me that when they detained him the nurse who checked his blood pressure, in his words, jumped off his seat because his blood pressure was so high. But they never checked up on him.

“Maybe it was a heart attack, maybe high blood pressure. Whatever ailment he had, being in detention triggered it.”

Another detainee, Justin Eniolorunda, said Mr Okwurime had told him he felt unwell and had been trying to get an appointment with the nurse.

The 42-year-old said his friend “was a jovial person. He was cool. He was young in age, but very mature.”

Mr Okwurime was a “very intelligent” and “easy-going” person and his death had left him “heartbroken”, the former detainee said.

He added: “I don’t think he had ever been locked up in his life. Not everyone can get used to this. He didn’t commit any crime, nothing. Why do they keep doing this to people? It makes me feel so bad. No one can hear our voice.”

Emma Ginn, director of the Medical Justice charity, said Mr Okwurime’s death was “a tragedy” that was “acutely felt by detainees left behind, locked in immigration removal centres”.  

According to the publication, a Home Office spokesperson said that as the death was subject to investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further on the case.