19 Mar 2014

UK should be ashamed’ over case of Alois Dvorzac


Baron Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, asks the Home Office what it knew about the 84-year-old Canadian who died in handcuffs at Harmondsworth detention centre.

The desperately sad story of Alois Dvorzac which we broadcast last night has touched a nerve in more ways than one.

The 84 yr old Canadian, originally from Slovenia, was on a doomed quest to reconnect with his estranged daughter in Slovenia.

He was stopped at Gatwick airport, was wrongly detained at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre and died there, in handcuffs, almost three weeks later.

We interviewed the doctor who examined him upon arrival. She told us she immediately knew this was the wrong man in the wrong place. She alerted everone to this fact – her line manager, the Home Office and even put an emergency call into the Canadian High Commission.

Read more: Who was Alois Dvorzac?

Today this story started to gain some politcal traction both here and in Canada.

On this side of the Atlantic, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham asked a question about the case in the House of Lords (see video above).

Alois Dvorzac, who died at Harmondsworth detention centre

He described the case as something the UK should “be ashamed” of but, more importantly, was promised a written reply to the question “at what stage did the Secretary of State or any other Home office Minister become involved in this tragic affair”.

Let’s hope he gets further than we did in his pursuit of an answer to this question.

In Canada, the Globe and Mail picked up the story.

The newspaper revealed that they had originally been briefed by a Canadian offical that the government there was not made aware of Alois’s case until after he had died.

But the doctor we interviewed rang the Canadian High Commission two weeks before he died, and spoke to an offical there giving them “all the details.”

We are awaiting clarity from the Canadian government and will keep you posted.

If you have more information about this case, you can get in touch via paraic.o’brien@itn.co.uk