Cruelty as Policy: the Truth about Indefinite Detention

In the wake of the Panorama investigation about G4S management of Brook House Detention Centre, Fuad Alakbarov looks at the bigger picture.

Many people in the UK may wonder why it was essential to set up detention centres in remote parts of the country. Each detention centre is encircled by guards and razor wire, making it appear to be in circumstances of big secrecy, with all staff and visiting medical workers being forbidden from telling outsiders about conditions in the indefinite detention centres. Staff within the centres are obstructed and intimidated if they want to report physical or sexual abuse of detainees

Britain’s immigration removal centres (IRC) have originally been intended to lock detainees for a short period, while their applications were being processed and their claims to refugee status were considered. Nevertheless that has long since ceased to justify the existence of these quasi-prisons.

The ugliest feature, though, is the indefinite factor of the detention, and that so many of the detainees, including refugees who have recognized their entitlement to refugee status have been held for more than two years, and face an indefinite future in detention. In addition, according to the latest statistics from Home Office more than 50 per cent of those detained are not deported but released back into the community.

Immigration Detention in the UK

The conditions in IRCs are depressing, the guards are aggressive, and detainees are frequently physically and verbally abused. Furthermore, the detrimental psychological effects of indefinite detention include severe and chronic anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and permanent personality changes.

“I tried to commit suicide. If you are suicidal, the guards take you to the isolation unit,” said Arnold Collins*, a detainee seeking asylum from Uganda. “I thought that was the fastest method out of my pain and misery. In detention, detainees are like the flock of sheep, being chased by pack of wolves.”

“It is extremely disturbing how fast immigration detention centres have grown globally over the last 30 years,” says Natalia Farmer, Glasgow Caledonian University’s PhD researcher in Social Work and Allied Health Sciences.

She added:

“the immigration industrial complex is a profit driven mentality which criminalizes those fleeing war, persecution and violent conflict. Worryingly, the promotion of ‘criminality’ alongside restrictive, discriminatory policies and legislation escalates this toxic mentality with inhumane consequences. Private multinational security companies such as G4S and Serco, who have history of human rights violations and discrimination in the UK should not be anywhere near those seeking safety.”

Kate Alexander, the director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, says as visitors to people detained in Dungavel, they meet people in all sorts of circumstances.

“They include people who the Home Office believe have breached the terms of their work or study visas; foreign nationals who have completed a prison sentence but are facing the additional punishment of deportation; European nationals who have been picked up by the police because they were thought to be begging or sleeping rough; and people who have sought asylum in the UK. What unites them is the fact that they are all detained indefinitely. None of them knows when they enter detention how long they will be there. And it can be a very long time – the latest Home Office figures show that one man had been in detention for more than four years.”

The Home Office policy towards asylum seekers is one of measured and calculated cruelty. It is undoubtedly considered to make the situation of detainees unbearable, to brutalise them, and to force them to return to their home countries; for instance, Syrians must return to areas controlled by the ISIS, which have waged massacres against them; and those asylum seekers with political background who have escaped Iran must return to the Tehran’s horrendous Evin prison, one of the most terrifying places in the world.

“Migrants and Asylum Seekers are being unnecessarily detained and traumatised for months and sometimes even years under an unjust and antiquated system,” Nicola Hay, Show Racism Red the Card Scotland campaign manager, says. “The UK is the only country within the European Union that does not have a time limit on how long an individual can be detained for. Indefinite detention is a cruel and inhumane practice imposed on vulnerable human being who have often faced harrowing circumstances fleeing persecution and are then subjected to further persecution upon arriving in the UK. We need to stand in solidarity for the freedom of those who have been detained and for those who face being detained indefinitely in the future and say no more.”

The immigration removal centres in Britain have long since ceased to be mere detention centres. The policy of detaining refugees indefinitely with in the punitive manner described creates an impression that they appearing to be modern day concentration camps.

It is abhorrent to think that Britain was among the founders and first signatories of the Refugee Convention.

It is high time for Theresa May and the rest of her allies to scrap those centres, fulfil the obligations Britain accepted under international treaties. They need to recognise the elementary moral and ethical standards on which these treaties are founded and resettle the detainees in Britain.

* Names changed for security reasons

Comments (5)

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  1. Willie says:

    About two years ago I saw a Border Agency raid on a kebab shop in the High Street in West Dunbartonshire

    Like something from a Swat team attack, an unmarked Transit Van sat strewn across a pavement and onto the road causing vehicles to move onto the other side of the road to avoid it.

    At the back of the shop another white unmarked Transit coking the car park exit whilst four or five men were lined up against a wall by men in black uniforms.

    All very dramatic stuff whilst all the time two local police officers sat neatly parked in their car playing absolutely no part in the proceedings.

    And the outcome as I was to learn later from a newspaper piece was that after the raid all individuals in the fast food shop were perfectly entitled to be living and working in the UK as they were both UK and EU citizens..

    Not even Nacht und Nabel from the 1930s Germany, our citizens walk or indeed swerve by, as black uniformed snatch squads operate with impunity in broad daylight.

    Today’s detention centres like the concentration camps before them are a reality in 2017.

    Isnt it so nice to be able to walk by, at least for now.

    1. Dougie Blackwood says:

      Our United Kingdom is slipping down the road to fascism with our friends across the pond. Since the restraints were lifted as part of the Brexit campaign it has become the norm for tabloid newspapers use lurid headlines to demonise “Migrants”, any foreigner from anywhere other than the white commonwealth or the States. We used to hear the term refugee more but the term Migrant has now become a racist trigger term applied to every person arriving. This in turn has incited many of our less sensitive citizens to mistreat the Migrant or immigrant people regardless of how many of their generations have lived here.

      We have become a racist country where the main stream media nods and winks to the xenophobic policies of our Tory government. Unless sensible people make a stand we will be back to the concentration camps and the gas chambers we had to fight in the 1930s. We can be smug about the fact that racism is more prevalent in the south than here but, if we allow it, the same poison will gain a stronger foothold here in Scotland.

      1. Willie says:

        Absolutely right in your observations Dougie. How many people in 30s Germany allowed the march of racism and fascism until it was too late.Like the 30’s Jews our view and treatment of today’s 2017 migrants is becoming exactly the same.

      2. john mooney says:

        Sorry to say Dougie but it is becoming more prevalent here in Scotland,eg. the two Tory bigots on Stirling council and the Tory MP. with regard to his disgusting comments against the travelling people yet Ruth the “Mooth” tells blatant lies in regard to this crew of miscreants so called apologie,as has been said before the phrase that should resonate and never be forgotten with regard to the present day is “The bitch is in heat again”yet we ignore the rise of Fascism again at our peril.

  2. Brian MacLeod says:

    Where are all the detention camps in Scotland?

    Is there just one?

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