Following the two deaths in Immigration Removal Centres last week, there will be a series of demonstrations this weekend across the UK to highlight the treatment of immigration detainees. (Press release - 29th July 2004)
This press release is on behalf of demonstrations organised at HMP Liverpool on Saturday 31st July at 10am and HMP Forest Bank (Manchester) on Sunday 1st August at 1pm. Other demonstrations highlighting similar issues will be held on Saturday 31st at Campsfield Removal Centre (near Oxford) at 12.00 midday and Dover Removal Centre also at 12.00 midday, and on Sunday 1st August at Dungavel Removal Centre (South Lanarkshire, Scotland) at 1pm. All details, including contacts, can be found at the end of this press release.
A Ukrainian asylum seeker at Harmondsworth Removal Centre was found hanged last Monday 19th July. There was subsequently a significant disturbance at Harmondsworth and detainees were transferred to other Removal Centres and to main-stream prisons.
Days later on Friday 23rd July, a Vietnamese detainee who had been moved from Harmondsworth to Dungavel Removal Centre hung himself - he was taken to Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, where he later died. A fellow Dungavel detainee is reported to have said that the Vietnamese man had been detained for over a year and simply gave up hope of being released.
One of the main causes of frustration and tension amongst the men, women, and children detained is that they do not understand why they are detained as they have not been accused of any crime. Immigration detention is indefinite and there is no requirement for it to be sanctioned by a court or be independently reviewed. One Harmondsworth detainee was released a few weeks ago after over a year - some others in the past have been in detention for years before being removed or released. One detainee moved out of Harmondsworth after the disturbance says he has been detained for 11 and never had a removal notice. Detainees complain of little meaningful communication with Immigration about their cases. Access to competent and independent legal advise has become more difficult and many detainees are unrepresented.
Many detainees are terrified of being sent back to their country - places like Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in civil war and with serious human rights abuses. Some detainees also loose hope that they will be released from detention here - there are suicide attempts and self-harming.
There have been many allegations of assaults on detainees, mostly during the remove process - one firm of solicitors alone, Birnberg Pierce & Partners, says it is now receiving a new allegation of abuse every day. The high number of allegations heighten fear amongst detainees who also claim that when articles about what"s going on in detention centres appear in newspapers, detention centre staff cut them out of the newspapers in the detention centre library, which may contribute to an atmosphere of paranoia.
Locking people up without good reason, little access to legal help, a high level of assault claims, fear of being sent back to a place where their life may be in danger - it"s a lethal cocktail of conditions so we were not surprised by last week"s deaths and disturbance, and neither should the Home Office be.
Official reports on detention centre conditions seem to have little impact - the last Prison"s Inspector"s report on Harmondsworth mentioned that The centre"s suicide awareness team was unaware that there had been 11 incidents in the month before the inspection.
A few weeks ago, Home Secretary David Blunkett visiting Dungavel and said he found conditions to be "entirely satisfactory". A major fire and disturbance at Yarl"s Wood Removal Centre on February 14th 2002 was started after Group4 (the private profit making detention centre operator) carried out Control & Restraint on a 51 year old women trying to get to the prayer room. David Blunkett said the next day that Group4 had "acquitted themselves with dedication and courage" and we later found out that Group4 had given the order that detainees be locked into the burning building that the Home Office had decided not to fit a sprinkler system to. David Blunkett"s blunders inspire little confidence or comfort.
In addition to what they have already suffered, many Harmondsworth detainees have been transferred to prisons. A few years ago the Home Secretary said". We will remove the necessity and practice of anyone claiming asylum being in prison . It is a scandal that shouldn"t have happened. It"s time it was over". It"s never been over ; asylum seekers have continued to be held in prisons. Of the prisons to which Harmondsworth detainees were transferred to is HMP Forest Bank, operated by UKDS (the same private profit making company that operates Harmondsworth Removal Centre).
The transfers have been chaotic and for those who have solicitors, some of those solicitors did not know where their clients were. When they find out, some will be telling detainees that they can no longer represent them at the new location. Some detainees say they were not allowed to gather their possessions, which could include vital immigration documents and address books, and say that some of new locations have not been to provide them with basics so they have been washing their teeth with their fingers. One detainee now at HMP Forest Bank managed to contact a supporter and said he was provided with 70p for phone calls to his solicitor, friends and family to tell them where he is. It can be that detainees are lock up, for up to 23 hours a day in prisons and their one hour association might be outside business hours so contacting their solicitor is difficult. In some prisons, detainees have to put name and numbers of people they want to ring on a list to go in the prison computer and telephone system, and this process can take many weeks. One prison Chaplin told me the detainees were mixed in with convicted prisoners and in the past detainees have been kept of the Lifers" Wing.
Campaigners around the country are staging demonstrations this weekend at Removal Centres and main-stream prisons that detainees from Harmondsworth were transferred to. We will be commemorating the needless deaths, showing solidarity with detainees, and demanding an end to the deadly policy of arbitrary and indefinite detention.
" HMP & YOI FOREST BANK - Sunday 1st August - 1 pm
Meeting point ; visitor"s car park at the prison - Agecroft Road, Pendlebury, Manchester, M27 8FB
Contact : Heather - 07903 184786 / simple_things (at) riseup.net or Emma - 07786 517370 / sady_campaign (at) yahoo.co.uk
" HMP LIVERPOOL (Walton) - Sat. 31st July - 10.00 am
Meeting point : at the prison - 68 Hornby Road, Liverpool, L93 DF
Contact : Tom Bimpson - 0151 475 7448 / tbnw16268 (at) blueyonder.co.uk or Margaret McAdam - 07974 309677 / margaretacara (at) aol.com
Directions : opposite Walton train station - Liverpool to Ormskirk rail-line (MerseyRail)
" CAMPSFIELD REMOVAL CENTRE - Sat. 31st July - 12.00 midday
Meeting point : Campsfield gates - Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, OX5 1RE
Contact : Bob Hughes - 07968 292499 / HughesBob (at) compuserve.com
" DOVER REMOVAL CENTRE - Sat. 31st July - 12.00 midday
Meeting point : MacDonalds Car Park, Whitfield Roundabout on A2 just outside Dover, then move on to Removal Centre, which is at The Citadel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, CT17 9DR
Contact : Kate Adams - 07792 187948 or 07731 774597 / cdas_kent (at) hotmail.com
Directions : Nearest station is Dover Priory Railway Station.
" DUNGAVEL REMOVAL CENTRE - Sunday 1st August - 1 pm
Meeting point : at Dungavel gates - Dungavel House Removal Centre, Strathaven, ML10 6RF
Contact : Margaret - 07870 286632 / glascamref (at) hotmail.com / fax 0141 946 6111
Directions : very isolated location - supporters" bus leaving George Square in central Glasgow at 12.00 midday prompt.
Organisations involved in the demonstrations
* No One Is Illegal
* Campaign To Stop Arbitrary Detentions at Yarl"s Wood (SADY)
* Close Campsfield Campaign (CCC)
* Barbed Wire Britain (BWB)
* Merseyside Against Detention (MAD)
* Merseyside Socialist Alliance
* National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC)
* Manchester Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers (MCDAS)
* Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
* Positive Action in Housing
* Kent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers