Tuesday, 14 June 2011

In UK, another detention 'prison' opens in the middle of nowhere

By Paul Canning

The UK Border Agency has opened another detention centre, to cope with the expanding numbers being detained.

This one is actually a former prison and it is in the middle of nowhere. The visiting information from it on the prison service website says that “both train and bus services are poor, the best direct route is by taxi.” The nearest mainline railway stations are Newark and Lincoln, 12 miles away. The website has directions for travelling by car.

Detention Action and other organisations have been campaigning against the expansion of detention. In a joint letter to the Immigration Minister last year, 25 organisations criticised the Morton Hall plans in the light of the UKBA’s “inefficient and damaging” use of existing detention centres and called for a moratorium on expansion.

Migrants Rights Network on their website write:
  • Some people are held in detention for prolonged periods. UKBA statistics crunched by the Migration Observatory show that over 10% of people held in detention from 2008 - 2010 were held for over one yearor some people this extended to a number of years.
  • Continued use of private contrators in detention centre staffing and removals. Various sources including the 2008 'Outsourcing Abuse' report by Medical Justice record highly concerning incidents of violence against detainees.
  • Use of detention as part of the fast track asylum process has been roundly criticised, including by campaign group Detention Action in their recent Fast Track to Despair report.
Mainstream media article about the centre have been reproducing Home Office press statements, see this from the local paper.

This sort of 'reporting' led a visitor at another detention centre, Bryony Whitmarsh, to write to The Independent calling the reproduction of PR "irresponsible journalism that contributes towards the myths that prevail about people applying for asylum in the UK."

She wrote:
I am a volunteer visitor at a local Immigration and Removal Centre, and in fact this morning was travelling to court to act as a surety for a gay man seeking asylum.

In Uche [Nnabuife]'s case and many others that I have experienced since I've been visiting (just over a year) these are NOT always people with no legal right to be in the UK or have refused to leave voluntarily. Many people are locked up unfairly and for indefinite periods of time. Many DO have a right to be here and a decision to detain them is taken before their case has been heard by a judge. People are often detained against Home Office Guidelines, for example, if they've been tortured.

Many have just arrived, picked up at a port or the airport. Some have been in the UK a bit longer and may have acquired false documents to help them negotiate daily life and/or entry into the UK. The Home Office prosecutes people for having false documents and sends them to prison. After serving a prison sentence (already a punishment) they then do not get released but get sent onto immigration detention and can stay in immigration detention for months or even years.

People have already served their time and detention is time over and above that and thus these people are not treated equally before the law.  Any British person would be released after the criminal sentence. There are young people in detention who have been here since they were as young as 1 or 2 years old, and are essentially British. They then get involved with inner city youth misdemeanors and next thing you know they are being held with a view to being deported to a country they know nothing of.

In contrast to the civil or criminal system, people have to prove their innocence, rather than the courts proving their guilt.

I would imagine that Nigel [Morris, Independent journalist] has not visited Morton Hall, as he does not comment on its isolated position, making it even more difficult that usual for detainees to get legal support or even to receive visits from friends or family.

I would suggest that Nigel watches the following video about indefinite detention, before publishing any further direct quotations from the UKBA without qualification.

Kind regards

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