There is no social distancing here

Can you tell me about your experience of detention?

I have been in Brook House detention centre for 16 months. I came from prison. I thought I was going to be released but then they brought me here to brook house. I was given a mobile phone, there was a tv and so everything felt better at the start. And then after 6 months I started getting bored and I start stressing about my life and day by day.

3 months ago in November, I had been a year. I started tripping. My hand started sweating, I couldn’t sleep and I felt hot. There was something I hadn’t felt before. I couldn’t get the thoughts of getting me out of this place out of my head. It was like this one year of detention was building up in my head, and exploded in my mind. It was the sort of experience I had never had before. It was something in me that felt like that. I tried everything, sleeping on the floor but nothing was working. They gave me paracetamol and some medicine called calms. And since that day, I am not the same person. Now small things really get to me. My short term memory is shot. Some old term memory is cloudy and dazy.

How have things changed since the coronavirus outbreak?

2 weeks ago they put two people in isolation. I heard from a good officer that I have known for long time. He told me that they are in there and they are suffering but they weren’t getting tested. There was another guy, who was serving food to us who got suddenly taken away. It was two days ago when they grabbed him. They were wearing white clothes and a mask on their faces and blue gloves when they moved them out. He could have spread it to everybody and this made everyone scared.

They are not doing any tests here. There are not testing  any one. So they don’t know if there is a virus on not. The officers who are working in isolation are wearing full body suits. Some officers on the wings are wearing face masks and gloves.

If I feel like I have symptoms (and I do all the all time) I am not going to tell them because if you do, they will take you to the block, to solitary confinement. They won’t test you, and they will leave you there. They don’t want these officers to find out that there is a virus outbreak here. A lot of people feel like they are ill in here. People are not feeling well, they are coughing and they are scared.

There is a meeting today with the home office – they have to do something. We are not animals you know. We need to be tested. Either they should let us out or do something to protect us. They can’t remove us to other countries because other countries will not take us. The government is not doing anything and they are still bringing people into detention. Yesterday they brought new people.

Outside, they are saying that people shouldn’t be close to each other. But here we can’t do anything about it. There are loads of people the tv room, in the garden. There is no social distancing here. No one knows who has got the virus. There are people coughing. I wish you had some sort of drone to see how many people are in the yard.

6 days ago they closed down the church, the mosques and other religious rooms where people congregate. There are less officers around the centre at the moment. Having less officers means there are less wings open and there are less officers on the wing. Which means you have to wait in order to leave the wing to go to the computer room for example.

How has it affected you?

The other day there was a protest. People refused to go to their wings in the evening. They were calling to be tested.

But I didn’t want to be involved as I had got bail. I have been given bail in principle but I have no address to go to so I have to stay here. My bail is going to run out tomorrow then I have to apply again.

It feels like I am on remand. I am in this space but without a sentence. Hopefully they do something. They have forgot about us, it’s like we don’t exist.

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