We had no option but to organise a protest

Locked up in Campsfield

I really find it hard to talk about my horrible experience of detention because every time I talk about it, it just brings back the sad, horrible, inhuman memory that I just don’t want to remember.

I encountered the immigration [authorities] just over 10 years now. I was here working, paying my tax, making my national insurance contribution. I was accused of working without the right to work. This is after many years of me working and contributing to the economy of this country. I was accused of not obtaining pecuniary advantage – I don’t know what that means.

I was detained at an immigration centre and I was told that my removal from the UK is imminent. I had to go through the courts to challenge such intentions, appealing against such intentions. While this was going on I applied for bail – I didn’t get no bail – a month passed – 2 months passed – one year passed. It was nearly 2 years I was still in detention.

I had to kick-off because at the time I was in one of these detention [centres] – you know I was really frustrated for me – for other detainees. A lot of them attempted suicide. Most of them were suicidal, depressed. Imagine you’ve been in detention, you can’t get proper medical treatment. I was very ill at the time and even though the doctor within the detention centre recommend me being taken to the hospital, they said to me that they going to get me to the hospital – but that it would be in handcuffs – I said “no, I’m not a criminal – I can’t go the hospital in handcuffs”.

It just went on for several weeks and my health was deteriorating. You don’t get proper food to eat. You’re locked up for nearly 24 hours of the day, maybe if you’re lucky you get an hour of going to the exercise area to just walk around – If you’re lucky. But majority of the time you’re locked up for nearly 24 hours of the day.

They open your door – to go get food. The food is . . . if I was to feed my dog or animal I would provide better food than what you get in detention centres.

You may wish to know that these rooms – they’re tiny rooms – you have a toilet within the room – in some cases there’ll be a separate toilet. You have unrelated adults sharing a little room. Some have actually within it – where you’re eating . . . your room mate or cellmate can also use the toilet whilst you’re eating – that tells you how bad it was.

It was just . . . it was so, so frustrating, to the point that a lot of people I know attempted suicide. A lot of people when they kick-off in the detention centres, the heavy-handedness of these people who we describe as prison warders who say they’re security guards – people are just being . . . they beat them up – a lot of them will be bleeding all over their body.

After that they will be kept in solitary confinement – which is more like a cell – you’ll just be by yourself – you sleep there, you eat within the cell. I’ve experience it as well. Whilst I was in detention I was provided with a bed – it was a metal bed without a mattress. When I tried to complain about it I received terrible beatings. I was kept in isolation for over a week.

It’s just . . . I can’t even go into some details which will just make me cry.

Detention centres are a horrible place to be. The Home Offices’ excuse for doing that is that they won’t let them stay in the UK, even when we have family here. I have my kid here. And I have a partner for this length of time I was in detention – nearly 2 years. I didn’t get to see my child because every time I applied for bail the Home Office will go and argue that my removal from the UK is imminent.

Resistance in Campsfield

Eventually, at a point I was so frustrated, we arranged a protest within one of the detention centres. The protest was successful. It really made the sort of impact we wanted it to make. Firstly, before we organised a protest we came together and wrote a letter to the Home Office, querying them for the indefinite detention of most of us there. We wanted to know why we were kept indefinitely in a detention centre. It fell on deaf ears.

We had no option but to organise a protest. Part of the protest was that when we were let out of our rooms, which were more like cells, for exercise, we were going to refuse going back into the room. And that was what happened. So when it was time for us to be locked up – we refused to go back to the rooms.

The protest was successful – we refused to go back in. People kicked-off. Kicking gates, forcing the gate down. Some people were able to escape. But I didn’t escape, because I wanted to see the matter relating to this whole thing being concluded. The Detention Manager asked riot police to come in – the riot police came in and rounded us up. I was among the people that were picked up and shipped to a prison.

When I got there I asked why I was being brought to a prison. They said to me that I was the ringleader of the protest. I said “I need to go to court because I’ve not been charged with anything – I can’t understand why I’m in prison”. I shouldn’t go into any more detail about this but I would like to mention that when I kicked-off at the prison I was taken to the isolation unit when I was kept again for a couple of weeks. My health started deteriorating again.

There was some organisation called … I don’t quite remember the name but their job relates to the independent monitoring board who were visiting the prison – I think they heard about my detention so they came to see me and I told them what was happening. They helped me to get a solicitor who applied for bail for me.

Eventually I go to court. When I got to court the Home Office actually made up some story that I was a ringleader of the protest, that I escaped and that I was re-arrested. As luck would have it we had a judge in the court – the judge asked the Home Office, after saying my side of the story that I’d never escaped but I was part of a protest against the inhumane treatment of the detainees by the Home Office, and the Judge listened to what I had to stay and listened to what my legal rep had to say and then asked the Home Office some questions, [the judge] said: “This man – you said he escaped – if he had escaped then where was he re-arrested and what police station was he taken to?”

In fact the judge knew that the Home Office made it up. I never escaped. Some people escaped but I never escaped. I was within the premises of the detention centre when the riot police arrived. So eventually, to cut a long story short, I got bail, and since I’ve been out of detention. I now have Leave to Remain.

Resistance inside detention centres sometimes is never allowed to come to the public light because it is subdued. When you’re in there – you have no right to freedom of expression. You have no right to express your pain, your grievances, because each time you try to do it, you’re faced with heavy handedness – you’re picked up – you’re bent over, you’re beaten – you’re left with injuries that people on the outside never know, because you will not be allowed to be taken to the public hospital and be seen by an independent doctor.

So the whole thing is being suppressed within the detention centre. When you’re in such a situation, you can’t get a visitor. People are not allowed to visit you because they give reasons why people on the outside cannot see you. Before you can have a visit, them injuries have to heal up, you’ll be in a better condition to be visited. Even some of the visiting groups that come from the outside – I heard of a visiting group in Campsfield that were banned from coming in to the visiting centre – banned from visiting detainees because they relayed the horrible experiences of detainees to people on the outside. The only visiting groups allowed into the detention centre are such that will not expose the secretive brutality, torture of the staff of the detention centres. So it’s difficult to say how the campaigners outside can work with the detainees in their resistance.

Resistance Outside Detention

I know what detention is like. I know the suffering, the pain of the people. Since I’ve been out of detention I’ve been working with groups campaigning against detention and supporting people in detention.

I know that when I was behind the huge fences which are like prisons, I knew that there were people out there that were campaigning. I got a lot of support from people outside. It’s such a relief when you’re incarcerated in an immigration detention centre to know that there are people out there who are not part of the torture, part of the oppression, part of the ordeal that you’re going through.

It’s such a relief. Because when I was in there I could hear people protesting outside, asking that Campsfield be closed down. These people I didn’t even know them – they don’t even know some of us. These people are English people. It was such a relief – each day, such a demonstration or protest takes place – I get that relief from knowing that – hang on – these guys are not all the same. There are people out there who look at things differently – who think humans should be treated as human beings – not worse than animals.

That’s why since I came out of detention I’ve been actively involved in campaign groups that have been campaigning over the years to see the end of this brutality. To see an end to this barbaric practice of incarcerating human beings, of depriving humans of their right to existence, right to family life, right to private life, right to live, you know? So it’s such a privilege for me to be part of these campaign groups.

Violence of Deportations

I’m aware of how the Home Office over the years has introduced charter flights which they use to secretly remove people who have been here for years. People who have established family life here. People who have worked and contributed to this country. They’re simply being treated like animals or worse than animals. There’s been a lot of cases of people being forcefully removed from the UK by charter flight where most of them are taken to countries they’ve never been for decades, a country they don’t even know, separated from their community, their families here, from their friends, from their private life.

They are being further punished for being sent to a country that they’re not from as if it’s their fault – whereas it’s the fault of the Home Office. So, things the Home Office can achieve with a charter flight is 1): They can do whatever they like to the people they’re trying to forcefully remove from the UK without anyone ever knowing about it. And 2) Charter flight can be sent to a destination that the government, or some people in the government in such country, agree to be used as a dumping ground for immigrants. Such immigrants can never ever find their way back to any where in the world.

And such people – a lot of them are taken to a country where they’re being killed. Some that are lucky not to be killed are kept in prison for life because the Home Office tell the country to which they are taken to that these guys are criminals. As soon as they arrive in such countries they are kept in prison as criminals again without a charge – just because the Home Office tells them that they are criminals.

A lot of them are languishing in detention centres – some are dead in prisons without their family here even able to track them down to know their whereabouts. Some of the families are thinking that they’re still alive. I’ve heard of cases of people who, as soon as they’ve been taken to their perceived country of origin – they are just eliminated – they’re killed – just because such countries are made to believe that they’re criminals.

Coming to the UK for refuge. Coming to the UK for good reasons is not a crime. But amazingly some immigrants have been seen as committing crimes for being in the UK. Some are described as illegal immigrants. There are different phrases that they use to describe them. Some are described as being here with no right to be here. At the end of the day we just have to look at these things and try to understand it better from the detainees perspective.

Disappointingly, most of the public don’t even know what is happening. They are being brainwashed by the Home Office who tell them that these people are bad, that they’re the cause of the problem, whereas they’re actually part of the solution to the problem. I’m sure if the public actually know the truth of this whole thing they will be more sympathetic with detainees, sympathetic with the people who are going through this inhumane, brutal and barbaric immigration-Home Office handling of lives.

It is really sad to be talking about this whole thing. It is sad for me to see it here right now, knowing full well that there are young men and women, even pregnant women, vulnerable people, with various health issues, languishing in detention centres.

It’s unimaginable what these people are going through and having to recall my experience – it just spoils my day and makes me feel really, really sad. Also being aware of how people are killed when the Home Office immigration try to forcefully, brutally remove them from the UK.

Jimmy Mubenga

The case of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man, who was murdered, in the course of the Home Office forcefully trying to remove him from the UK. In his case, the murder came to light because the flight used at the time wasn’t a charter flight – it was a flight that had some passengers in it. I’m sure that’s the only way we knew about what happened to Jimmy Mubenga – otherwise we would never have known.

So flights that are chartered – that are solely used for the removal of detainees – and no passengers travel on such flights – you can imagine what would happen on such flights. These guys who get away with murder – if there were witnesses when they killed Jimmy Mubenga – you can imagine what would happen on flights currently being used that are not normal flights – not passenger flights – the passengers who travel on it are detainees. So if they got killed, no one would ever know about it. This whole system has a way of covering up most of these things.

When Jimmy Mubenga was murdered, my understanding was that the security guards were actually contractors to the Home Office and that they are called G4S. But you’ll not believe that nobody was ever convicted of the murder. Basically they are above the law. So they got away with murder. You may also wish to know that the same contractors to the Home Office were never stripped of their license to obtain contract. In fact they are even more popular than ever before – demonstrating that they are able to forcefully, brutally remove immigrants from the UK by any means even if it means murdering them. They’re getting more contracts. You go to hospitals – they’re there. You go to courts – they’re there. You go to various government establishments – they’re there. So, if a civilian, an ordinary person in society commits murder, they are sent to prison for life.

So we can see the double standard that we’re talking about: Immigrants are not seen as human beings – they’re only seen as numbers – they’re numbers as far as the Home Office is concerned – they are not human. That’s why you find the Home Office are working on targets to achieve a specific number of people they remove from the UK irrespective of why they are in the UK and what they are doing in the UK. It doesn’t matter to them – as long as they are able to achieve a target.

If the Home Secretary tells them we need 2,000 removed from the UK by 2018, it just basically means they have to go round raiding as much people as they want – as long as they are black – as long as they are Asian. It doesn’t matter to them whether their human right is being breached – it’s all about numbers. It’s not about lives at all. They don’t give a damn about life. The life of immigrants’ is no life. It’s not seen as life.

It’s sad that I have to sit here talking about these things. I wish there could be more people who share in my passion for seeing this oppression – for seeing this barbaric practise come to an end.

Voluntary Returns”

Voluntary Returns” is a shambles. It’s a very deceptive way of getting people out of this country against their will. As far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as “Voluntary Returns” for immigrants. It’s a systematic, subtle removal of people against their will from this country.

It’s very deceptive. To ask someone to agree to go to a country where they don’t belong, with a promise of giving them so much money, and assuring them of protection in a country they’ll be sent to, if only they agree to go to that country – it’s one of the greatest deceptions. Basically you are told: “If you agree to go to this country, we’ll give you a lump sum of money so you can start your life in that country – though you flee persecution, torture, you fear for your life in your country of origin. But we can change your life by giving you a lump sum of money to start a life in another country that you’ve never been, that you don’t belong – all this false hope – and all this deception – it’s another subtle way of forcing people out of this country.

The word “voluntary” is deceptive. This is what I know. It isn’t a free choice … most immigrants are victims of torture. Most immigrants are in the UK experiencing the same torture. And some are killed. Being given the hope that there’s a country out there waiting to accept them, to give them protection – and that here they are being denied protection, denied a right of existence in the UK – and there’ve been given a lump sum of money to start a life somewhere, and that they won’t face any torture. Such people will naively accept such an offer because they just need a place free of the torture. A lot of them are in the UK being tortured.

[The Home Office] never leave you alone. We are pretty much aware of the current “Hostile Environment”. These people cannot access medical care. They cannot access education. They cannot access jobs. Even most of them cannot participate in activities that will relieve them of the stress. A lot of them have issues . . . I have issues with mental health. They’ve got no choice.

In Turkey they have a place for refugees. People are there because some European countries have decided that they should be there as refugees rather than be allowed to go to the country of their choice to seek refuge. So it’s not a choice – that’s what “voluntary return” is – it’s not a choice. It’s allowing the powers that be to decide where you’re going to be the next day. People languishing in detention centres today – it’s not a choice – they have no option. That’s how I look at “voluntary returns“ – that’s the truth about “voluntary returns”.

I don’t think any true “campaigner” will subscribe to collaborate with the Home Office for “Voluntary Return”. Most of the people doing the “voluntary return” scheme are doing it to earn a living. They’re not a campaign group – they’re being paid to facilitate “Voluntary Returns” – a lot of them earn a living from it. A lot of them do it because they are not true campaigners that share in the passion of the work of campaigners. They are people who actually share in the torture and oppression of the Home Office. They are more like Home Office personnel in disguise. They disguise themselves as campaigners, they have a hidden agenda, they’re part of the Home Office system, so it’s all deception.

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I was just so happy to be back in the UK closer to the memories of my Parents

“I was born in Clapton, London, in 1984. My Mother, Father and I lived in the UK together in a house and my Aunt regularly visited – my Aunt was residing in the UK at the time and has continued to reside in the UK until today. She is a British National.

My parents took me to Ghana at the age of five in 1989 for a holiday with the intention to return to the UK. Unfortunately for me they died not long after we arrived in Ghana in a car accident. I was not with them in the car but I was told by my Uncle about what had happened. I do not remember much as I was very young. The only relative I had in Ghana was a long-distance family friend who was not blood related but I called him my ‘Uncle’. He looked after me in Ghana after the passing of my parents. My Aunt and Uncle from the UK sent money regularly to him to look after me.

Travel to UK at the Age of 17/18

My ‘Uncle’ in Ghana who took care of me, arranged for me to return back to the UK when I was 17/18 years old because I had immediate family living there who were very willing to take care of me; my Aunt and Uncle in the UK also realised I was always sad and felt disconnected to Ghana because I kept on saying to them since I was little I wanted to go back home to the UK as that is what I always have considered my home. My ‘Uncle’ in Ghana gave me a Ghanaian passport to use for travel to the UK. As far as I was concerned there was no issues with this passport.

When leaving Ghana to travel to the UK, my ‘Uncle’ told me to hand the passport he gave me to a man in London as soon as I got to England, so it would be returned back to him as he said I was a British Citizen and did not need a Ghanaian passport. I did not know any better and did not know the system and thought this was normal. My ‘Uncle’ also gave me my birth Certificate showing that I was born in the UK.

I arrived in the UK in October 2002 at Heathrow Airport and soon after handed the passport to this man in London. That’s the last time I saw that passport.

Life in UK Once Arriving from GHANA

I continued my life in the UK and lived with my Aunt and she supported me and helped me get into college. I felt like I was once again close to my own family and the memories I had of my parents. It was like I returned home after all these years.

My British Birth Certificate enabled me to get a driver’s license and other identity documents including my national insurance number. I believed I was a British citizen and was entitled to all this by virtue of being born in the UK.

I went to College at Conel College of North East London in 2002, studied Construction but did not finish. I dropped out in 2004, moved out of my Aunt’s apartment because I wanted to be independent and started working part time at a retail supermarket in Enfield.

In 2006 I also worked in Marble Arch as a shop floor assistant and a stockroom assistant.

Shortly after been made redundant because the company was cutting down on staff, in 2008 I got a job at a shop in Chingford as a cashier. Later on in 2011 I was given a 1 bedroom flat in Enfield on housing benefit because I couldn’t support myself without a job for about a year until my personal case worker at the job centre helped me find a temporary job at a supermarket warehouse in Waltham Cross as Packer.

I voted and literally did everything a British citizen would be able to do. The only thing I did not think of claiming was my British passport, because I was young, naïve and never had any plans to travel at that time. I was glad to be back in the UK where I had fond childhood memories of my loving parents (which were my last memories of them). All my memories of them are based in the UK and coming back here felt as if I was closer to them.

EMPLOYMENT WITH NHS

Eventually, hard work in my studies and employment provided me with a great opportunity with the NHS (National Health Service) as a Social Therapist in 2014, at a medium security hospital for mental patients. I finally felt like my life was grounded and going somewhere as I had secured a career job and felt my parents of late would have been proud of me. However, little did I know that this would prove to be a massive nightmare the effects of which I am still facing today.

As a Social Therapist my role was to interact with patients with mental illness socially or on a 1 on 1 basis to help them recover and help change their way of life for the better. On one of the night shifts there was an incident on another ward at the centre and I was radioed and told to report to the ward to help de-escalate the situation. Unfortunately, things went out of proportion and there was a riot on the ward and I got assaulted and injured badly. This has affected my teeth and caused injury to my neck.

The NHS refused to compensate me when my injury lawyers approached them. And I was not even given any counselling.

I was told by my manager that they would refer me to a dentist to help fix my teeth back to how it was before and I would get physiotherapy for my neck pain. However, this never happened.

ISSUES WITH HOME OFFICE

I was sent a letter by the Home Office whom had classed me as an immigrant which got me so confused and shocked, because I was born in England and before you even work for the NHS you have to be screened by the Home Office and police.


I sought advice from the Home Office on the phone on what to do to resolve my issue. I was told to naturalize since I was born in the UK and also since I was not able to provide one of my parent’s passports.

I went ahead to pay and completed The Life in The UK test, passed and put my application in with my British Birth Certificate and paid £1,080 for the application fee.

But the application was refused on the basis that I was not entitled to work, which is not true because I have a national insurance number and have worked for many years and paid taxes. I became very frustrated, depressed and confused.


I asked for advice from an immigration
solicitor, who requested for my Home Office immigration history which stated on the first paragraph that I was born in the United Kingdom but also had history of me coming into the country in 2002 with a Ghanaian passport and also, they claim I acquired a student visa from Ghana in 2007. This is impossible because I have not left the UK since I returned in 2002. I told my solicitor about how my ‘Uncle’ helped me return to England in 2002 and that I didn’t know much about the passport but I was told to give it to a man when I arrived and that was the last time I saw that passport.

The solicitors advised me that I should leave the matter with them to resolve it because it looked like the Home Office had two identifications with the same name and date of birth but two different places of birth and it looked like they were confused giving the decision for my naturalisation. The solicitor believed that the Home Office had made a mistake.

In the meantime, I was requested by the Home Office to be reporting and signing on at their main office at London Bridge once every month, I signed on every month and never missed a date.

My solicitor made an application and added additional grounds for consideration for the Home Office. I did not agree with this because my solicitor should have concentrated on the naturalisation rather than making an application for additional grounds. The reasons for refusal of my naturalisation was wrong and incorrect and my solicitor should have addressed this. However, she said that the Home Office asked her to make an additional grounds application. I do not have this application.

DEPORTATION

On one of my signings at the Home Office, I was called into an interview room and was told I will be detained until further notice. I had no notice and this happened all so fast. I spent three weeks in a detention centre in Oxford and was granted bail by a Judge. My Aunt and Uncle had to travel from London to Wales to represent me as surety’s and they put a £1,500 bond for my release. I was given the condition of staying at my Aunt’s address and I was still required to report for signing at the Home Office in London Eaton House until my issue was resolved.

A few weeks later I went to the Home Office to sign on as I was told to but they went ahead and detained me again without any notice.


I immediately contacted my
solicitor but she said she couldn’t help me and also she was on holidays. So, I had no option but to raise up money again and look for another solicitor.

This time I was taken to Harmondsworth Detention Centre. I was there for a few weeks because trying to apply for bail there was like a myth. I had difficulties in trying to acquire a solicitor but eventually I applied for bail on my own and had a court hearing date. I even remember reading the news and finding out that “DEPORT FIRST AND APPEAL LATER “was ruled unlawful”.

On the night before my bail court hearing day, in the middle of the night I was forced out of my cell by 4 officers onto a military plane at an unknown military base and was told I was being deported to Ghana. It all happened too fast and I kept on asking how come I was not notified about this and I had not been shown any travelling documents. I also told the officer I was not well and I had been accessed by the doctor and been prescribed anti-depressants which was meant to be administered to me that same week but they ignored me. I kept telling them that my bail hearing was in the morning but they ignored me. I kept on asking the officers before they took me out the detention centre why my name was at the bottom of the list and only my name was written in pen and the other detainees which were on the list had their names printed and all those detainees were also notified and showed travelling documents before that date but I wasn’t? All of that was very suspicious to me and I did not know what was happening. This was unfair as I was not shown travelling documents and I had a bail hearing in the morning. No one listened to me.

On the plane I urged the escorts to help me, they listened and realised something was very wrong and that there must be a mistake because I had a copy of my birth certificate on me and also, I told them I even voted on the 8th of June the same day I was detained, they checked my birth certificate and saw it was genuine. They asked the Home Office personnel on the plane why and he said the reason is because I was born in England, 1984, and the Margaret Thatcher law affected me. The escorts found it absurd and said to the Home Office personnel if I haven’t committed a crime I should rather be helped in getting my British passport instead of being deported.

The Escorts said the only way they could help me was if the Ghanaian immigration on the ground refused me entry because I was not born in Ghana. But unfortunately the Ghanaian immigration did not want to help me at all because they had been given by the Home Office a travelling certificate with a copy of the Ghanaian passport with place of birth as Accra. This was false information and the Home Office knew this but intentionally used it to their advantage in getting rid of me because they know my place of birth is London not Accra. This is proven by my genuine birth certificate. Had they shown this to the Ghanaian authorities, they would have refused me entry. The Home Office seemed to be aware of this and relied on a passport that they knew had incorrect information. And because the physical passport was no where to be found they made a travelling certificate with the incorrect information they had.

LIFE IN GHANA

My life has been turned upside down and I am in misery. I do not know where the ‘Uncle’ that helped me years ago is, I don’t know if he’s alive or not because we lost contact 15 years ago. Even my Aunt does not know his whereabouts.

Sir/Madam I am pleading with you to help me, I don’t know anyone in Ghana, I have been squatting at a friend’s and I am finding it very difficult to live out here. I have been sleeping on the couch, it’s a small house with many people living here and its damaging my health. My immune system is not used to the poor conditions in Ghana. I fell very ill when I got here because I wasn’t given any malaria tablets.

I have been robbed at knife point and had my phone taken. I sometimes don’t have food to eat. I sometimes have to fetch water to have a bath or drink because there’s no constant running water. I am being taken advantage of because I speak in a British accent. I am always overpriced when trying to buy something. The people here see me as a foreigner.

I am very depressed, anxious, suicidal and have tried to kill myself before in the UK because of what’s been going on in my life. I miss my friends, family and loved ones who are all in the UK. I was once a happy, working, tax paying, sound individual with hopes and dreams, now I have nothing left, only with injuries and bad memories.

I hardly sleep at night, I feel so vulnerable and have been taken advantage of. I feel I am in a bad dream, a nightmare hoping and praying to wake up out of it. Also, this has put me in a position of not having a fair fight against the Home Office because of the difficulties in contacting my Solicitor. It costs a lot here to be on the phone and to use the internet. I feel my human rights have been breached. I feel like a badly treated alien in this country.

At all times I was endeavouring to live a legitimate life in the UK and build a lifelong career believing that I am a British Citizen and I had to just apply for my passport which I did not do as I was just so happy to be back in the UK closer to the memories of my parents.

Please Sir/Madam have mercy and help me please. Thank you and God bless you.”

Statement from Dungavel Hunger Striker – Adel Aboulkacem

“I want to be released please, so I can be with my family and lawyer before my appeal. I need to bring my partner and kids together to go to this appeal. They told me to bring my family to the appeal but how I can do that when I’m inside?

I’m trying to support my family from inside by working, I want to look after my kids, I want they to have a good life. They are struggling to pay bills and clothes without me there. My daughter and son need new shoes and I’m stuck here. You cannot clap with one hand, you need two hands, and that’s me and my partner. What can I do, they are killing me here. They are keeping people for a long time here, for no reason. Any other country in Europe its three months. Here it could be weeks, months, years. I know one man here who is four years in detention, it is ridiculous, he has two kids.

Being in detention, they try and make you calm down buts impossible, its not right. They wont let us on the internet, or to read the newspaper. They are pushing you to do something bad to yourself. To kill yourself or harm yourself. There is lots of fighting and drugs.

Please if people can support me or protest I would support it, because everyday something happens here and its driving everyone mental. Someone got on top of the building today, and tried to jump, he said ‘you want to kill me’. They have been taking people by force, people have lost their lives here. They have been here so long, for making one mistake. Everyone has one mistake in their lives, but my mistake is costing me my life. I had a seven week prison sentence, and I’ve been eight months in detention. I’ve done more detention than prison! I dont know what it looks like outside any more.”

 

[reposted from Unity Centre’s solidarity petition]

Anything you apply for, however, is always “no, no, no” and “rejected, rejected, rejected”.

The worst thing is the indefinite detention, which Home Office lies about. People are in here for 8-9 months. I have been here for almost 6 months. This is my third time in detention. Even prisoners know when they will be released. Here, if you don’t do anything, that’s a problem. If you do something, that becomes a problem as well. Time is taken away from our lives. I want to study and want to do my nursing. But I can’t do that. Months are taken away from us, we can’t get that back. It’s not fair.

We want to know, and we are going on the hunger strike. Something needs to be done about the detention system. I am paying a lot of money, just to be refused again and again. It is mentally draining. It needs to take shorter time to make decisions. [My] future is in their hands. I am trying to stay strong. I don’t want to end up on detention medicines. They affect you mentally as well.

Another problem is [how we need to] continue to find some help from outside. Home Office keeps lying, and they [detention centres] are sneaky. The main office will call us to come for something else, like healthcare. Next, the person is locked up for removal without their phone. Some people, when they are locked, don’t even know that the detention centre has your flight ticket. That is why we need to have each other’s numbers, and numbers of each other’s solicitors. We have to rely on other people’s help to communicate to the outside something is being done in here.

I want them to provide us a way to stay in the country. I came here when [I was] 18 years old. I learned how to be independent here. No more friends in —–. If I go back to —–, there is nobody there. If I have people there, I would be okay with going back. I would go back. But right now, I have my partner here. Friends here. Money here. Most people contributed to the country, and people are not on benefits. People worked and contributed. I don’t want the government money in any shape or form.

But applications are being refused by the case workers. What does a person have to do for her case to be considered? I want Home Office to reduce the requirement for the amount of time spent in the country. It’s like… they are not giving the opportunity. We should be given a chance to stay. In [my] situation, you need to do something to solve this problem. Look at the Windrush. What about the Commonwealth countries, then? People who spent 12-13 years in the UK, but do not ‘qualify’ to be the Windrush generation.

It’s like, I do understand that this happened many years ago. I do not want to have British citizenship, but a legal status to work. An option to regularise afterwards. Anything you apply for, however, is always “no, no, no” and “rejected, rejected, rejected”.

What about us? Everything is about the Windrush, and I understand that. But what about the detention system in general? We need to be focused on that as well. There are many people in the detention centres who need to regularise their status, who has been waiting for many years.

It really needs to be considered, because once we are released, it’s just a matter of time when we back here again. It is like a cycle. They take away our futures and lives and waste the tax payer’s money on this detention centres. We have loved ones to go back to. We don’t need to be locked up like criminals—even they know when they are being released. This place is mentally draining me. It is only a matter of time before I end up on depression medication. But I am trying to be strong.

We in Yarl’s Wood would like to invite the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid to visit the centre

We in Yarl’s Wood would like to invite the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid to visit the centre and meet the ladies here to get an accurate view of our indefinite detention in the hope that we can have a positive effect on any future policy and indeed the much needed revision of current policy and how it is implemented.

We believe the Windrush scandal has vindicated our decision to hunger strike in February and March this year as among other things we were protesting against.

  • The unfair process being detained by office workers who’s vocational success is based on how many people they remove, with no time limit on detention.
  • The Home Office’s blatant disregard for Articles 8, 5 and 3
  • The deportation of people with ongoing cases and appeals
  • The detention of vulnerable people

We are sad to announce that some ladies in Yarl’s Wood Detention centre are again taking part in a hunger strike beginning today, 2nd of May 2018, as we are truly angered by the entire scandal, and we feel very strongly that many people who have resided in the UK since childhood but never had their stay regularised, and are in exactly the same situation but not granted the same amnesty because they are not part of the Windrush generation.

A child cannot break immigration laws, or choose where to grow up and establish a private life, so why should they be labelled as over stayers and “illegal” once they are adults?

This highlights the unjust process in place currently at the home office for all who have genuine reasons to remain, including those seeking sanctuary, seeking to be reunited or to remain with family and those fleeing torture and gender based violence.

Our demands are still the same, as we are still ignored and remain in a desperate situation with no other outlet to vent our frustration at this continued cruelty by the state.

We would greatly appreciate venting our concerns and grievances to the Home Secretary should we be granted the opportunity.

 

Yarl’s Wood Detainees and Hunger for Freedom strikers

‘Illegal’: the word used to differentiate between people who deserve justice, and those that don’t

The past few days have been a bit of a haze for me, watching the news and hearing everyone here in Yarl’s Wood talk about Amber Rudd, shouting at the screen in with passion and even tears, such is the depth of the effect the Home Office has on people’s lives.

Although I am happy that those from the Windrush Generation seem to be getting the justice they should have always been entitled to, I find myself envious of that justice.

Like many others, I am not from a commonwealth country, but my situation is not too different. I have lived in the UK since the age of 11 and have never left, my life is here, my personality and my norms and values are developed here. I don’t even speak another language. Yet I am viewed as Illegal.

And there it is. The reason I don’t have any hope. Both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister use that word, which I find so hurtful, repeatedly in parliament to try to differentiate between those who deserve justice and those that don’t, those who deserve the hostile environment and those that don’t.

I do feel vindicated in some way though. Now everyone can see that the home office does indeed operate in a rogue manner and is not fit purpose as they detain and deport those with a legal right to remain and the former home secretary has been shown to lie about the existence of about removal targets.

Let me tell you. As a person detained for over 5 months now, I have known for a long time that the home office’s “modus operandi” is that of unmitigated cruelty.

If this is how they treat those with the right to remain, imagine how they treat those who are in the process of seeking that right, or those seeking protection or those seeking to stay with their families.

And so our hunger strike to protest the Home Offices immoral practices was indeed justified measure because of the desperate situation we find ourselves in as a result of their societal violence against us.

On a personal note, I feel this government is hostile to the disabled, the working classes and many others in our society who suffer from its societal violence in the form of austerity and the cutting of vital services and so it does not surprise me that those most vulnerable in society are being targeted in this way.

I hope some sense of justice can be gained for all.

[Account from passenger witnessing a deportation on a commercial flight]

The flight was Air France (AF) 1461 (small plane, maybe Boeing 777), from Heathrow terminal 4 at 6.40am on Monday 26th February*. I’m not sure if it was a flight exclusively for connections, but I had a connecting flight to Martinique and I know that a lot of the people sitting around me were flying on to Cameroon, with only a very brief time to change flights in Paris. I was sitting in seat 15B, in the middle seat on the left-hand side, (there was one set of three seats on each side of the aisle) and there were about eight rows of passengers behind me and then the rest of the plane behind them was empty (approximately six rows).

I can’t remember exactly what time it was that the man being deported was brought onto the plane, but I would guess that it was a good ten or fifteen minutes after all passengers had boarded as I had been talking to the man sitting next to me for some time already, and everyone was settled with their luggage stowed away. He was brought on by seven men via the back entrance to the plane. They were wearing shirts and trousers, a bit like officers in detention centres, but it wasn’t an obvious uniform because they all had different colours on and didn’t have any visible logos. While six of the men stayed at the back of the plane, one man came up to where the passengers were sitting and, row by row, explained that there was a “legal deportation” taking place and that we had nothing to worry about, and should just carry on our flight as normal. He told us several times not to turn around and look towards to back of the plane. I can’t remember whether he told us that the deportation was to Tunisia, but I think he must have done at some point for me to have known.

Throughout this the man being deported was crying out, sounding very distressed. At some points he shouted “I don’t want to go back to my country” but mostly he was making a wailing noise.

While the immigration man who seemed to have the job of talking to passengers continued speaking to each row moving towards the front of the plane, I stood up and tried to talk to other passengers and cabin crew. An English man in front of me complained to the cabin crew about the noise, asking why the airline agreed to conduct deportations on commercial flights. A Cameroonian man on the right-hand side in my row was talking to the cabin crew in French about what they were able to do – he later told me about his conversation with the cabin crew captain
who had told him that it was only the pilot who could decide whether or not to fly and that there was nothing they could do, though he (cabin manager) himself agreed with the complaints (I’m not sure whether on inhumane grounds or based on the argument that it’s unfair on passengers who’ve paid their good money for the flight etc. etc.). Other people around me were saying that it was “sad” but that we don’t know the whole story, and that there’s nothing we can do.

I was standing up and looking on my phone for information about what to do. I argued with the immigration man about how inhumane it was and said to the people around me that enough of us stood up then there was something we could do, and we could stop the flight. The man and cabin crew told me several times to sit down. The English man in front of me told them that I had a right to complain if I wanted to. The immigration man said I could but that if I didn’t sit down then I would be taken off the flight. I asked the cabin crew if I could speak to the pilot and they said it was too late and that I would have to wait until we landed. At this point I felt like they were going to just take me off the plane if I didn’t sit down so I sat down and very soon after the plane started moving for the taxi.

I can’t remember if there had been an empty seat next to the Cameroonian man sitting on the other side of the aisle in my row or whether the immigration man asked someone to move but he ended up sitting on the other side of the aisle to me, between me and the Cameroonian man and one other English man sitting on my side (I suspect he engineered it because I don’t remember seeing many empty seats towards the front of the plane). As we took off he was talking to the people around me. I argued with him a bit about the whole situation, and talked about people dying in these kinds of deportations and he said that that happened one time and it was before they had had proper training but now the training was so much improved etc. etc. He asked me
what my name was and I told him that I didn’t want to tell him, and he looked around at the other passengers with raised eyebrows saying “I’m just trying to be friendly!!” At one point after we had taken off the man being deported went quiet for a while and the immigration guy made a few sarcastic remarks to the passengers around him about how it was funny that he’d quietened down right after take-off.

When the seatbelt sign went off I got up pretending to go to the toilet to see what was happening at the back of the plane. Some of the cabin crew tried to get me to use the toilet at the front of the plane saying they had to bring the trolley down the aisle from the back, but I insisted and they didn’t try and stop me using the back toilet. At the back there were only three seats on the left-hand side for the last two or three rows because the toilet was on the right-hand side. The man being deported was in the last but one row in the middle seat. He was handcuffed to the chair by both wrists. There was an immigration man sat on either side of him, two standing up in the row behind him, and two standing up in front of him. Those standing up were all facing him and
leaning over so he was completely surrounded. I tried to record audios from the toilet but couldn’t really pick up what they were saying. The man looked very distressed and mentally unwell. The men around him were laughing and talking amongst themselves. At one point when I went past they were sort of slapping him on the shoulder as if they were all sharing a joke – I’m not sure if they were making fun of him or whether this was meant for the passengers’ benefit to make it look like they were all mates really and it was all a big joke that they were all part of, including the man being deported. When I was walking back down the plane I sat down in one of the empty seats between them and the passengers so that I could hear more of what was going on but was told
by a flight attendant that I couldn’t sit there because it was a “secured zone” (or something like that).

A bit later on I got up again and started the audio on my phone so it would record as I went past. As I went into the toilet I saw that the immigration men were all eating croissants and drinking coffee from the trolley, but still standing up surrounding the man. I came out of the toilet and started talking to him. I asked him if he was ok, and if there were any numbers he wanted to give me of people to contact to tell them what was happening. He seemed very out of it and I’m not sure how much he understood of what I was saying – he started crying out and saying that he didn’t want to go back to his country. At this point the immigration were standing there and let me talk to him. However I then asked him what his name was and they all started saying very quickly that I couldn’t ask that, and the man who had been talking to the passengers who was now standing around at the back of the plane tried to physically pull me away. I told him not to touch me but while this was happening he noticed that I was recording audio on my phone. He asked me where I was going on for a connecting flight and said that I wouldn’t be getting that flight (though I hadn’t told him where I was going) and that that was it now, he’d asked me several times but I’d continued to “try to disrupt a legal deportation” and that there would be police waiting for me in Paris and I would have to answer their questions (he didn’t say if they would be British/French). Several of the men said, “you can’t have those recordings” and a flight attendant added that that was what I had been doing earlier when  I went to the toilet. They told me that I had to delete all recordings from that day immediately – they didn’t actually give me any legal basis at all for this but having talked about police on the other side and given the conviction in their voices, they were sufficiently intimidating for me to just want to delete the recordings at that point, especially since I hadn’t picked up very much. (When we landed in Paris no-one stopped or spoke to me at all).

At some point while all this was going on the man being deported shouted out a few times, “I’m not a terrorist!”. The immigration guys told me that I had upset him and that he had been calm and that now, by talking to him, I had made him distressed. The main immigration guy (the one who had been talking to the passengers) said to me, “this is what he’s like, he’s calling you a terrorist now!!”. (Just to clarify it was VERY clear to me that this is not what the man was saying at all, and when I said this to them, the other immigration guys insisted that I was mishearing…).

After the recordings they told me I had to sit back down now and had kind of physically formed a block so I couldn’t really speak to the man.

After this I got quite upset from the exasperation and anger, and when I sat back down the main immigration guy sat in his seat on the other side of the aisle and tried talking to me again in this whole “nice guy” mode, asking me why I was so upset and talking about how he was a decent guy and really cared but I just didn’t know the whole story about this man.

The English man sitting next to me said that he could see my point and that he was very pro-immigration but that he also felt that not knowing the back story to the man’s case he couldn’t protest the deportation.

When the plane landed the man being deported was taken off the plane immediately out of the back exit while the passengers waited.

As we were getting off I spoke some more to the Cameroonian man who told me that he had been told – either by the immigration man or the head of cabin crew… I wonder whether this is one if the things the escort man had been telling people  – that the man was being deported for having raped a three-year-old girl. I asked to speak to the pilot who was saying goodbye to people as they got off the plane and asked him about agreeing to fly and explained (probably in a calmer way than I had tried to do at the beginning of the flight) about my concerns, basically trying to convince him not to fly if he gets asked again. He said that he only had the right not to fly if he thought that it was unsafe to take the person being deported. The head of cabin crew who was standing
next to him also joined the conversation and told me that I didn’t know what the man had done, saying that “you don’t get escorted by seven policemen if all you’ve done is shoplift”. I did feel like the pilot was much more open to the discussion than anyone else I’d spoken to on the flight, though I think had I framed it more as me feeling unsafe on the flight from the beginning then this would have been more persuasive to him and both cabin crew and passengers. At one point I had actually said to one flight attendant that I felt really uncomfortable with the situation and she assumed that I meant because I was scared of the man being deported, and told me not to worry because there were seven policemen with him.

[* Flight details changed to protect anonymity]