17 September 2016
The Rt Hon Amber Rudd
The Home Secretary
Dear Rt Hon Amber Rudd
We are currently being detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration and Removal Centre in Bedford and the following are concerns we have whilst in detention. This marks the 8th day where most of the residents have taken to a hunger strike in the hope that you will look into our concerns and advise accordingly:
1. No privacy – documents and email:
• Many detainees have noted that SERCO officers read emails and other documents when they are “monitoring PC use”. Many a time, the officers have stated that they are not aware of individuals’ cases but can often be caught reading documents before printing. The IT rules state that only documents that help with cases can be printed, but some of the officers are known to have a good read ( instead of just glancing) before printing the documents and therefore are privy to sensitive information about detainees and some officers have been heard gossiping about detainees. The result of this behaviour makes some detainees prime targets for discrimination. The same applies to emails; officers can read what detainees are writing which also amounts to violation of privacy.
2. Pages missing from decisions and legal bundles/documents
• Some detainees have noted that when immigration officers hand documents to them, there are often pages missing e.g. responses from the law courts which inform that ‘judicial reviews have been received by the courts and are being considered as further submissions and evidences towards individual cases.
3. Ruling on decisions
• It has become apparent that when ruling on decisions, immigration officers quote a lot of information available in the country information guidance but yet their final decisions do not reflect or account for that information and therefore it appears that the use of country information guidance is an exercise by the immigration officers for the sole purpose of ticking a box.
• Some decisions have also been made by immigrations officers who do not have adequate training. One of these officers was working as a hair dresser at Yarl’s Wood IRC Salon in December 2015 and is now working in the DAC Yarl’s Wood fast track team making decisions which could mean life or death for the concerned asylum claimants. This is clear abuse of immigration powers which shows complete disregard of human life and condones and encourages unqualified employees to make decisions beyond their intellectual comprehension.
4. Unlawful removal
• The SERCO officers are notably using excessive force when enforcing removals by ambushing detainees and taking them to Kingfisher (which is an isolation unit) before a flight or forcibly taking detainees to reception and handing them over to Tascor escorts. It is apparent that the use of excessive force is exercised on black detainees mainly. At no point has there been use of excessive force on a Caucasian detainee, leading to the conclusion that black detainees are being discriminated against.
• In 2015, Channel 4 aired a recorded video footage of SERCO officers using vulgar and racist language to refer to black female detainees. During one specific removal, a diabetic detainee being transported for removal to Zimbabwe was not given her medication to maintain her diabetic status to the onward country. Given travel by air to Zimbabwe is at least 10+ hours, the detainee’s health was highly comprised and if the removal had succeeded, the consequences could have been dire.
• There has been several cases where detainees being removed are currently engaging with the mental health teams both here and the community before they were detained yet the immigration laws again continues to detain and further remove people with serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and other forms of mental health.
• During enforced removals to segregation and/or country of origin, there is deliberate attempt to intimidate and frustrate a detainee so as to force a reaction. During removals to country of origin, there are at least 5 escorts to one detainee. Not only is this intimidating to the detainee, it costs the tax payer a fortune and often the escorts are more concerned about having a paid holiday at the expense of the tax payer and have no regard for the human rights they are breaching. When the removal fails, excessive force and mistreatment is used as punishment for the missed holiday opportunity. As recent as August 2016, on the way to the airport, Tascor escorts could be heard talking about the places they would visit on the way back from Zimbabwe via South Africa and how excited they were. The detainee in question has no family or relatives in Zimbabwe and if the attempted removal had succeeded, she would have left her husband, children and grandchildren with no possibility of ever being re-united with them. She, like many detainees was expected to maintain a relationship with her family over skype and social media which is what is quoted on most of the refusal decisions given by the UK Visas and Immigration when determining cases. This is just one example what happens to detainees. In some cases, the removals are enforced when there are still applications pending with the home office which makes the removal and use of excessive force, unlawful.
• During removal from association, there is at least 6-10 SERCO officers.
5. Detainees who are not fit to be detained
• The Home Office against its own rules and guidelines and the mental health act, continue to detain individuals suffering from mental health issues and victims of rape and torture. In the past 7 months, there have been two detainees with cancer detained at Yarl’s Wood and numerous with mental health issues who are on an ACDT care plan that does not work but is maintained again to tick boxes.
6. Social media
• Despite numerous reports conducted by independent consultants, social media continues to be banned at Yarl’s Wood IRC. On numerous occasions, the immigration officers have instructed the IT departments to refuse requests for detainees to print evidence photos from facebook. It is also apparent that these refusals are directed towards specific individuals, whilst others have been allowed to print facebook photos. The Home Office is notorious for pointing out that people can maintain relationship via social media but then deny that right to detainees i.e. facebook, instagram, skype etc. have all been banned.
7. Home office delaying decision making for under 19’s
• The home office is delaying decision making for the under 19’s deliberately with the sole purpose of rejecting their applications when they turn 19 and then detaining them. These young detainees who should be in college continuing with their studies are separated from their families and brought to detention where like all other detainees, they face uncertain futures and indefinite detention.
8. Injections during removals
• This marks 8 months since being detained and there has been two occasions where 2 individuals being removed to Zimbabwe (which in fact do not have a re-entry treaty with the United Kingdom thus should not be removing or deporting failed asylum seekers) remember being escorted to the reception to be handed over to Tascor escorts and after being given a drink slept until they were on transit in Nairobi before their onward travel finally to Zimbabwe. We still keep in contact with at least one of this former detainee.
9. Unlawful detention of mothers with British Children and/or partners of British Citizens
• There have been several individuals who are detained for long periods of time but they are either mothers, primary carers or partners to British and/or EU Citizens. This is a deliberate attempt to separate families which in the long term would go on to create dysfunctional society as the people being relied upon to instil discipline in families are being unlawfully removed. When a removal is carried out, it carries a re-entry ban of 10 years minimum. Some of these intended removals are individuals who have been habitually in the United Kingdom for over 10 years and when the removal is carried out, they are only allowed to take out 20kgs on personal items after accumulating businesses and even personal effects in excess of these 20kgs cannot be taken out when this removal is effected, unlawfully or otherwise.
10. Discrimination of same-sex partnerships
• Wrong decisions have been arrived at on same-sex relationships because to date there is no measure of how ‘gay’ a person is supposed to look or behave. The same country which prides itself at human rights has gone on to discriminate by disbelieving that these relationships are genuine and subsisting.
We would be most grateful if you could look into the concerns we have raised and we know it is in your power to order an amnesty.
We are ready to settle many of the migrants who are lost at sea or displaced by war but being very flippant to the individuals who have contributed economically to this country.
Thank you for taking time to read our letter.
(please see attached the signatures of current detainees).
cc by email to The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Theresa May (email@example.com)