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This week there has been a rebellion in the majority of the UK’s migration prisons.
The wave of strikes initially broke out in Harmondsworth IRC in London – the largest of what are increasingly becoming concentration camps, with people held because of their ethnicity and many sent to their death. There have been strikes in at least 8 of the UK’s detention estate. The people on hunger strike are protesting the terrible conditions they must endure in such facilities, with many of them detained for years without trail, having never committed crimes. Seeking asylum is not a crime.
“They can’t send us back. Some people have very bad situations in their countries. So they have to do something with us. That is what we are trying to do.
The home office doesn’t talk with us. Only the officers in here are trying to scare us.”
“The block is a cell with nothing inside no window no nothing and your there on your own. If a dog was in there, I would feel sorry for it. You can only speak to the wall. Nothing in there.”
#END DETENTION! STOP DEPORTATIONS!
NO BORDERS! – FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL – NOT JUST THE RICH AND PRIVILEDGED!
People from Cardiff joined the ‘Dignity not Destitution March’ in Bristol this weekend, in solidarity with destitute asylum seekers. Marches and demonstrations were also held in Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and Glasgow.
This weekend, Cardiff Migrant Solidarity are announcing the creation of a new resource called Share Dydd. Share Dydd aims to offer hospitality, in theform of accommodation, meals, welcome and solidarity, to destitute asylum seekers in Cardiff.
Asylum seekers become destitute because they have been refused sanctuary by the Government and all financial and other forms of support has been withdrawn from them. In very limited circumstances refused asylum seekers can apply for ‘Hard Case’ support, or Section 4, as it is known. However many asylum seekers don’t apply for Section 4, because they are afraid, as it means they will have to agree to return home to countries where there is on-going conflict, violence or human rights abuses.
They remain here, cold and hungry on the streets of Cardiff.
We hope to launch Share Dydd this later in the summer
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday 12th October on BA flight 77 the policies of the UK and the Europe Union claimed another life. Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan with a family in the UK, was killed on a flight from Heathrow . Whilst the Home Office initially claimed that Jimmy ‘fell ill’ and ‘passed away’ in hospital, eye-witnesses tell a very different story.
Jimmy was being forcibly deported and was being accompanied by three private security personnel from Group 4 Security (G4S). Around take-off Jimmy began to complain and make some noise, probably due to the fact that he was being forcibly deported to a country that he fled from. The G4S guards then twisted his arms behind his back and pushed his head down into his lap whilst putting their weight on his back. According to eye-witnesses they exclaimed, “he will be quiet once we are in the air”. Jimmy then began to moan and cry out that he was suffocating, prompting G4S to continue putting weight onto his back. After around 40 minutes he slipped into a coma. The plane was stopped on the run-way and an ambulance called.
Unfortunately Jimmy was proclaimed dead upon arrival to hospital.
On Monday 18 October, the Institute for Race Relations released its report entitled ‘Driven to Dersperate Measures’ . It cites the deaths of 77 asylum seekers as being directly due to the UK’s migration laws.
More than 28 were suicide cases such as Osman Rasul, an Iraqi Kurd who jumped from a high-rise tower after being left destitute and penniless after his first asylum claim was denied. Others include Abdullah Idris, a Sudanese asylum seeker who was found hung in his cell on Christmas Day 2007 and Ama Sumani a Ghanian woman who was deported from her hospital bed in Cardiff whilst receiving life-giving treatment. This act was described as an act of ‘atrocious barbarism’ by the Medical Journal ‘The Lancet’.
As there is no legal way for an asylum seeker to enter the UK others have died attempting to cross into the UK. There have also been deaths at the hands of racists on the streets, deaths whilst working in the black economy and deaths after being deported back to home countries. Also included are the survivors of racial attacks, UKBA raids and those who were destitute. The report is highly disturbing and reflects a small percentage of those who have suffered for the crime of moving.
These cases highlight the realities of border controls and, in particular, forced deportation. Two years ago Medical Justice compiled the report ‘Outsourcing Abuse’ It detailed cases of serious violence and abuse during deportation and catalogued hundreds of injuries sustained in the process. Broken bones and punctured lungs are among them. Medical Justice warned that a death would happen soon if the whole system was not reviewed and radically changed. The No Borders network has regularly reported on the abuse received by people at the hands of the Asylum system, including the assault on Suren Khachatryan and the treatment of Genevieve Adetoro .
One thing that certainly does need looking at is the use of private companies to enforce border policy. The Danish company Group 4 Security runs several detention centres in the UK and on the day that its staff were suffocating Jimmy, it was lobbying for greater involvement in custodial security in UK Police stations. They have a history of abusive and racist behaviour towards people being deported and No Borders amongst others have campaigned against them for years.
No Borders South Wales stands against all deportations and the detention estate in general. We continue to fight for freedom of movement for all. We encourage anyone who finds this article a drive to do something to get involved.
Further Guardian article about Asylum seeker deaths: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/17/racism-asylum-seekers-uk-laws
Another example of forced deportation: A video of a man being restrained on a deportation to Kenya. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2010/oct/19/deportation-heathrow-kenya-flight-footage
Along with other groups who have been calling for the end of detention for children through two campaigns “Outcry! – End Child Detention” and “End Child Detention Now” No Borders South Wales also feels it is long overdue to put an end to such a practice.
The damaging effects on physical and mental health were clearly outlined and backed by evidence from studies as detailed in the joint statement “Significant Harm” by the British Paediatric Mental Health Group (2009).
But although children are particularly vulnerable when detained, it must not be overlooked that all people detained are experiencing the same horrific conditions whatever their age.
The UK is unique in Europe for Read the rest of this entry »
The hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre has reached a fifth week. Solidarity demonstrations have taken place, outside the IRC itself, at Holloway Prison and around the country, now a legal challenge is being mounted. The hunger strike tactic has also spread to Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre.
There will be a protest in support of the hunger strikers this Saturday 13th March in Castle Square in Swansea City Centre from 12noon until 5pm. As well as higlighting the stuggle of Read the rest of this entry »
Over twenty women have been on hunger strike at Yarls Wood Immigration Prison near Bedford since Friday 5th February, calling for their immediate release and are now reaching the “critical phase” of health risk. This is the latest chapter in the history of resistance in UK detention centres, there have been many solidarity protests with Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday No Borders activists from South Wales joined around 200 people from across the country in Bedford for a march on Yarl’s wood immigration prison to call for an end to the detention of migrants. This particular facility has the capacity to hold 405 people, and specialises in locking up children. The march coincided with other protests against immigration detention centres in Manchester and Edinburgh.
Gathering in the busy town centre, participants gave out leaflets inviting people to join the march and held placards and banners aloft. After listening to a compelling speaker or two, and becoming annoyed by the personally intrusive Read the rest of this entry »
- In Bedfordshire, outside Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre, gather 11.30am at Bedford Town Centre.
- In Manchester, outside Pennine House, the detention centre near the office of Border and Immigration minister Phil Woolas, who was detained on friday evening. The extreme views of Mr Woolas have resulted in his receiving a pie in the face on an earlier occasion
- In Edinburgh, outside the offices of Group 4 Securicor (G4S), one of the largest private companies involved in the border prison industrial complex, running five immigration prisons in the UK and many more around the world at a considerable profit.
There are 13 immigration prisons in the UK and every year up to 30,000 innocent people including 2000 children are detained without committing any crime. The government wants to increase detention by 60% and have Read the rest of this entry »
These were the words of order at the protest outside Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) on Saturday 29th November, the 15th anniversary of its inauguration. Activists from No Borders South Wales joined with over 100 people from London, Birmingham, Coventry, different towns in Oxfordshire, mainland Europe, Turkey, Congo and elsewhere, to stand their ground in solidarity with the detainees held beyond the endless fences, bare empty ground, barbed wire, bars and walls.
We were at Campsfield to shout words of solidarity through the bitter cold air and fences. The speakers included Bill MacKeith from the Campaign to Close Campsfield, Romain Ngouabeu from National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC), local MP Evan Harris as well as former detainees and partners of detainees. The atmosphere was one of enthusiasm, warmed by steaming soup, and energized by lots of music and bright eyed children running around with ‘Stop Detention’ signs.
Particularly heart-breaking was turning our backs and leaving, to the sound of the detainees inside, asking us not to go, asking when we would be back, why we wouldn’t just take the fence down. Why won’t we?
After the protest a meeting was held by Barbwire Britian (network to end migrant detention), in a nearby hall, where Steve Symonds, Legal Officer of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), gave a special briefing on the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill.
A Legacy of Tragedy
Over the past 15 years, Campsfield has been the topic and stage of much criticism, from activists as well as ‘authority’ figures, various violent incidents (aka ‘disturbances’), hunger strikes and a suicide. It opened as an immigration detention centre in 1993; having been originally built as a military barrack and subsequently serving as a hospital and a detention centre for young people it now holds 216 male inmates indefinitely without trial or charge, simply for exercise their right under the Geneva Convention to claim asylum in Britain – daring to live in a different place to where they were born.
On June 27 2005, an 18 year old Turkish Kurd hung himself after being detained at Campsfield for 4 months, 9 days and a few hours – nonetheless, the report after his death stated that the average length of stay in detention at Campsfield was of 14 to 15 days. The same report stated that
“detention reviews were not sufficiently rigorous … a decision whether or not to continue to detain [cannot] properly be made on the basis of papers alone”
and that the chair of the IMB admitted Campsfield’s
“staff could sometimes be a bit ‘sharp’ with detainees”
using what they referred to as a “muscular approach”. Among various other recommendations, the Ombudsman made a case against prolonged detention, saying that
“there is much circumstantial evidence that indefinite detention can lead to a deterioration in either mental or physical health or both ” .
Regardless, in the report from the unannounced inspection of Campsfield House this year, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said that the average length of detention periods had
“increased significantly since [their] last visit, from 14 to 46 days”
In August this year, 13 Iraqi detainees went on a hunger strike, later to be joined by 50 others of various different nationalities. Earlier, in June, fires were started in protest inside the centre and a team of 50 prison officers, a fire engine, a helicopter and dog handlers called on to ‘restore order and ensure no one escaped’. Let us recall that seeking asylum is a human right and that none of these incarcerated people are criminals.
In 2006 Genevieve Adetoro was arrested while at work. Like many others, Genevieve has been criminalised for doing nothing other than trying to make ends meet and provide for herself and family. She took on work in 2004 following her husband being diagnosed with vertigo and a heart condition. She was sentenced to imprisonment in 2007 and whilst inside suffered a stroke.
But Genevieve’s ordeal was only just beginning. Once she had served her sentence Genevieve was not released back to the care of her family and community in Luton where she has lived since 1996, rather she was transferred to Yarlswood Detention Prison (or what the government calls an Immigration Removal Centre) where she has been incarcerated since 10 July, 2008. She is now subject to potential deportation, although as far as we are aware removal directions have so far not been issued.
Since her stroke Genevieve’s condition means that she should have access to 24 hours a day care. She is paralysed on her left side and in a wheel chair. She has Cranio-Vertebral Anomolies, Angina, Hypertension, Cell Anaemia, Osteo Arthritis and Depression. She takes 15 different kinds of medicine a day.
She is dependent on others for help with her personal care, such as bathing, feeding and dressing. Genevieve has no assigned carer at Yarlswood. Instead she has to rely on the goodwill of other migrants imprisoned at Yarlswood for support. There are times when she has been left in her incontinence pad unable to change it herself. Sometimes she has missed meals because there was nobody to support her. Sometimes, other inmates have been woken up at 3.00am to assist her.
Worryingly, her medications have often been administered very late, once as late as 2.00am. She has been left in the lift for one hour unattended and due to the poor standard of care has fallen on a number of occasions. On one occasion when she called for help following a fall from from her bed only an officer turned up and said Health Care was too busy stating:
“I’m all you’ve got we are short staffed”
The officer then proceeded to lift Genevieve all by herself on to her bed.
Another fall resulted in her being taken to hospital. When she was discharged at about 1am the Doctor asked if they have transportation to take her back and the detention centre guards said yes. However, the transport used was completely inadequate. Instead of a specialist vehicle a mini-bus usually used to transport visitors to Yarlswood was used.
Genevieve was then lifted by three guards into the bus. One held on to the right leg and the other the left foot while the third put his hand around her armpit covering her bust and threw her into the van at the count of three. There was no seat belt so she had to lie on the lap of one of the guards for the one hour journey back to the centre. The same procedure was used to take her off the mini-bus on arrival at the centre. All of this was excruciatingly painful for Genevieve and went against all protocol for how someone in her condition should be treated.
Following visits from friends and family Genevieve has sometimes had to wait over an hour for someone to take her back to her room sitting in a puddle of urine. She has developed bed sores and rashes.
When she has complained about her appalling and demeaning treatment, one officers said:
“what’s so special about you?”
Genevieve finds her situation extremely frustrating and it is taking its toll mentally. She has expressed the wish that she were dead. Not surprisingly it is the expert opinion of several Doctors that detention is no place for a person in her condition.
Genevieve has not seen her children since her incarceration and her husband is worried about the emotional effect it will have on them seeing her in such a poor state.
Recently a judge refused Genevieve bail on the grounds that her house needs to be adequately fitted with equipment before she can go home. Social Services went to inspect the home but because of her legal status said they could do nothing to help. Catch 22.
Most absurdly, the UK Borders Agency have argued for her continued detention stating that Genevieve is likely to abscond. Ye you heard correctly. A wheelchair bound, physically disabled person, who can hardly move out of bed without support. The mind boggles.
In a recent edition of the New Statesman Liam Byrne, Minister for Immigration, made the following statement:
“I know our contract staff in removal centres provide care with the utmost sensitivity and compassion in really difficult circumstances, because I have studied the situation at first hand. It’s why medical care at a removal centre is as good as it is on the NHS.
At Yarl’s Wood – where most families are housed – there is 24-hour nursing care with 14 nurses, two doctors on call day and night, as well as social workers and dentists.”
Who’s he trying to fool? And if Genevieve’s word isn’t good enough for you, only last month we reported on the announced inspections of two privately run detention prisons, one of which was Yarlswood, which provided damning evidence of the treatment of those incarcerated within them and the poor level of health provision inside.
If Genevieve were to be deported she would be subject to the kind of ‘double punishment‘ that is typical of the increasingly punitive migration regime that is emerging both within the UK and across the whole of the EU. While these forms of deportation have been in place for some time, recent legislation has tightened things even further. Since August 2008, as part of the UK Borders Act 2007, ‘Non-British’ and ‘non-EEA’ citizens, who have been sentenced to a year or more in prison, regardless of how long they have been in the UK and regardless of how valuable their work is to the local community, can, following their prison sentence, be deported. Unless, that is, they can show that this would breach their human rights, which is far easier said than done. Even those with a British born partner and children can be deported, with the partner and child expected to uproot themselves to live wherever their partner or parent is to be deported.
Don’t let this happen to Genevieve and family!
For ways in which you can help Genevieve check out ncadc’s website.
Check out here for a succinct overview of the legal ins and outs of ‘double punishment’.
GEO, the multinational corporation that runs Campsfield under contract from the Home Office, not content with making huge sums of taxpayers money to imprison people whose only crime is to have come to the UK in search of a better life, is currently paying migrants £5 for six hours of work – either in the kitchen or cleaning.
In a bid to extract as much profit as possible from the misery caused by the migration regime, GEO (since taking over the running of Campsfield) has cut back on both staffing levels as well educational, recreational and other provisions at the centre. The Home Office says that migrants imprisoned in detention centres are exempt from the minimum wage and are not forced to work. But those migrants that we have spoken to have said that there is so little to do in Campsfield that working gives them something to do and takes their minds of the uncertainty of what possibly lies ahead. This in no way excuses paying them the unbelievably measly sum of 83p an hour. Especially as refreshments and food that can be bought at Campsfield cost the same as that in the outside world.
A statement by Oxford and District Trades Union says:
We maintain our position that Campsfield is a shameful operation and should be closed. As long as it is open, jobs should be properly paid and be done by trained staff. For detainees there should be adequate recreational, educational and other provision… Detainees should receive an adequate financial allowance and not be obliged to act as slave labour for a multinational that makes big profits out of an operation that causes detainees enormous stress, uncertainty, general misery and often mental illness.
One of the people currently imprisoned in Campsfield is Jean Pierre Gueutchue a victim of torture from Cameroon. Jean Pierre had been living in Cardiff until he was detained when attending his weekly signing at the UK Border Agency. He was due to be deported on 21 July but thankfully this did not take place. Despite having had no new removal directions since this time Jean Pierre continues to be imprisoned in Campsfield. We are working with members of the Campaign to Close Campsfield to get him released back to Cardiff where he belongs.
See Jean Pierre’s campaign page for ways that you can support his fight to stay.
“an immigration removal centre can never be a suitable place for children”
Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Two recent reports on full announced inspections of two privately run detention prisons provide extremely damning evidence of the treatment of asylum applicants incarcerated within them. The report on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and report on Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre were both carried out by Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. These are the places where single women and families – men, women and children – are locked up, often for extended periods of time, despite having never committed any crime, apart from coming to the UK in search of a better life. Both reports focused particularly on the effects that such imprisonment has on children.
Some key findings from the report on Yarl’s Wood
- Escort vehicles with caged compartments were inappropriately used to transport children
- the average length of children’s detention had increased and this had a detrimental effect on children and their families
- overall provision of health services was a concern
- Children staying for more than a few days received an unsatisfactory educational experience and there were few activities outside school hours
- There was no evidence that children’s individual needs were systematically taken into account when decisions to detain were made. Our interviews with detained children illustrated the effect of sudden arrest and detention on their well being and reflected how scared they were while held in detention
- The standard of care delivery was reasonable for basic primary care, but some serious gaps in provision, including poor access and communication, impacted negatively on detainee wellbeing
- Services for children were under-developed
Some key findings from the report about Tinsley House:
- Our principal concerns about safety related to children. While staff in the family centre made considerable efforts to support children and their families, they could do little to mitigate the damaging effects of their detention
- We were disturbed to observe some unprofessional conduct by external escort staff
- We were particularly troubled by the plight of single women …the conditions for single women were extremely poor …Their situation should be addressed as a matter of urgency
- there were examples of detainees given tranquilisers inappropriately without their consent
- Prolonged detention was not adequately explained or reviewed. When detainees made bail applications for independent review of detention by a court, BIA disclosure was sometimes prejudicially late and inaccurate
- there had been no progress on substantive areas of care since inspectorate recommendations as far back as 2002
Both these reports highlight the terrible conditions and human rights violations that asylum applicants must endure within detention centres, and as the final quote from the Tinsley House report highlights, nothing much has improved since the last inspection. The idea that such places could ever be made happier, more caring, or humane is pure fantasy. You know what we think. Close all detention prisons!
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