From a person in detention since September 2021
I’ve been in detention for five months. They took me to Brook House first, and I was kept there for a month. They refused my request for release, saying that the Home Office was about to make a decision on my case, so there would be no point. From Brook House they took me to Colnbrook, where I was for another month. Then from Colnbrook they moved me to Harmondsworth, where I’ve been since.
I’ve been really struggling here, I’ve been in a really bad state. My mental health has got worse. I’m getting really bad headaches, bad nightmares, and my anxiety and depression have got worse. They treat us worse than animals. You have to share a room, there’s no privacy. There’s a toilet, a sink and a bunkbed. They lock us in the room from 9 at night until 8 in the morning, 11 hours. There’s no ventilation, no nothing. There’s a window, but it’s triple glazed, you can’t even… There’s no way of breathing. It’s just locked, a thick door. It’s like a proper jail. Some people here have been to jail before and they said it’s exactly the same. They even handcuff us when they take us to hospital for appointments. For two hours a day you can get access to computers to check emails. Everything else is banned – Facebook, YouTube, everything. You can only access your emails, just two hours a day. Also, you get cleaning jobs, laundry jobs – you can work in the kitchen for like three hours, or clean the floor for one or two hours, and they give you just two pounds for that.
There are so many people – about 60 in our wing. They’ve been sort of neglected. Officers here, they’re harsh. Three officers are okay, but most are really harsh, they really don’t care. You have to beg them for anything – seeing a doctor, getting clothing, anything. They just put things in computers, and say “we can’t do anything”. They force you to share your room, and if you say you don’t want to they threaten to put you in ‘the block’ – that’s a place where there’s nothing, no TV, nothing, and you spend a couple of days there.
People are being detained for like two years, three years. Some people want to go back to their countries, and they’re not sending them back. There’s an old guy from India, he’s over 60, and he’s been in detention for the last 11 months. He wants to go back to India because his wife is not well. They’re not sending him back. He’s in a really bad state. So many people are stuck here for months or years.
People are testing positive every day. There are no masks, no sanitisers, no nothing. The sanitisers have been empty for months. There’s no PPE, no nothing. We feel vulnerable, especially those who are older and have other health issues. But they don’t care. I was watching BBC Parliament and there was a debate about detention centres. The lady said, “Oh we have weekly meetings with the detainees about outbreaks.” This is a lie. No meetings have been happening. And there’s nothing to sanitise with. We couldn’t have any visitors up till a few days ago, but then we all mix here. Then they do lockdowns – we had a 15-day lockdown last time, with no internet, stuck in the wings, the corridors. You couldn’t go anywhere else in the detention centre. Detainees were really depressed because we had nothing to do. And somebody like me with mental health issues, it’s really hard. I sit in my room and watch telly. In spite of this outbreak, they still bring loads of detainees every day, spreading the virus. No precautions or 2-metre distance, nothing.
They say they can’t keep people who suffered abuse, torture, any sort of sexual exploitation, and yet there’s loads of people who are victims of torture and abuse here. This is what I say to them – you’re doing the same to me. It’s abuse. You lock us up here for 11 hours a day for what? What are we going to do? You just feel so lethargic. A person with bad mental health gets worse every day here. Recently, some people have been self-harming here. There was an ambulance here the other day. But they are trying to keep it quiet.
I’ve been helping people here, because most of them can’t speak English, I’m filling their forms, speaking to officials for them. I wrote to my MP, I’ve written to the Indian High Commissioner – I’ve been raising my voice, but I’ve been threatened. They say I’m raising my voice too much, that I’ve been asking too many questions. I’ve just been saying the truth. I’ve worked hard for my life here in the UK. I need to get my rights, get my life back.