Did delay in treatment contribute to the death of a Turkish asylum seeker?
By Gilly Mundy & Harmit Athwal
The family of Elmas Ozmico, a Turkish asylum seeker, believe that earlier medical intervention might have saved her life. This is one of the questions the family desperately want answered at the inquest into her death.
On 8 July 2003, a Turkish woman, 40-year-old Elmas Ozmico with her two children aged eight and nine and her 19-year-old nephew, arrived in Dover in the back of a lorry. On arrival, they claimed asylum and were detained by the Immigration Service. At this point her nephew is believed to have asked for a doctor as his aunt, Elmas, was not well. She had apparently developed medical problems on the journey and was experiencing difficulty in walking. The family have since alleged that repeated requests that she be allowed to see a doctor were ignored. Some hours later, the family were all moved to the Port of Dover detention centre where they spent the evening.
The following day, at 9.40am they were taken back to the Immigration Service at Dover, where it was identified, that Elmas was suffering from medical problems. But she was not taken to hospital until she collapsed at 5.20pm, while in the custody of Migrant Helpline - some nineteen hours after arriving and first asking for help. After a series of operations, Elmas died three days later from septicaemia.
The inquest, which was due to start on 1 October 2004, into her death has been delayed indefinitely as the coroner has been unable to find suitable court space to hold it.
There is also some confusion as to who was responsible for Elmas Ozmico's treatment. There will be seven interested parties represented at the inquest when it finally resumes, including the family who will be represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group, the Immigration Service, Migrant Helpline and the hospital trust.
INQUEST told IRR News that they are extremely concerned about the effect of the indefinite delay in holding the inquest on Elmas Ozmico's family. 'A key requirement of the Human Rights Act is that a death in custody investigation must be held promptly and in public.' They also have further concerns surrounding the care of vulnerable asylum seekers arriving in the UK, particularly those requiring immediate medical care and attention.
The IRR is currently researching the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants who have died either in the UK or attempting to reach the UK, if you have any information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org IRR.ORG
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors. © Institute of Race Relations 2004