Campaigners target Morton Hall IRCTagged as: anti-racism detention_action lincoln_underground_collective migration no_borders repression
Neighbourhoods: lincolnshire morton_hall swinderby
Published by group: Notts Indymedia
Activists are stepping up the campaign against Morton Hall IRC, the latest addition to the UK’s detention estate for migrants. Morton Hall, which opened in May, is near Swinderby in Lincolnshire and will imprison 392 men when it is full. Its opening by immigration minister Damian Green was met by a noise demo and protesters returned on Saturday. The detention centre was also the subject of a meeting during Refugee Week and a visitors group has formed to support those inside.
Morton Hall was formerly a prison for female foreign national prisoners but has now been converted to an immigration removal centre for male detainees. It is run by HM Prison Service in collaboration with the UK Border Agency. Less than 30 miles from Nottingham it is the only detention centre in the East Midlands.
Immigration detainees can be held indefinitely, as detention is not automatically reviewed by the courts, and many end up in these prisons for years. None of them are being detained as punishment for a crime. Most detainees are asylum seekers whose claims have been refused. Other people are waiting to find out if they will be allowed to stay in Britain or are waiting to be returned to their countries of origin. Many experience extreme isolation and distress, knowing no-one in the UK and with very limited understanding of the language, law, their rights and entitlements. Many people have already been traumatised by their experiences in their home country and are further scarred when they find themselves detained with no release date, and by the prospect of being forcibly returned.
Instances of racism, brutality and neglect in detention centres are rife. In 2009 two guards at immigration detention centres were found to be members of the fascist British National Party. This month a guard at Yarl’s Wood IRC was fired after a detainee became pregnant whilst in detention. The denial of medical treatment is commonplace in detention centres. Examples include denying wheelchair access to a detainee unable to walk after an assault during a forced removal attempt, which meant that she couldn’t go to eat. Denial of medication to patients with health problems is common. For example HIV positive detainees have been denied access to anti-retroviral drugs whilst in detention. A Kenyan detainee, Eliud Nguli Nyenze, died in Oakington IRC last year after an ambulance called for him by detainees was turned away by staff.
According to the rules regarding detention, victims of torture and people with psychiatric conditions are not suitable for detention. However, these regulations are routinely ignored. Indeed, the experience of detention can exacerbate or precipitate poor mental health. Ahmad Javani, an Iranian national detained for over thirteen months comments: ‘If any single normal person came to this place you’d go mental, mad in this place. I was a normal person before coming to this place, and now, I’m forgetting things always. Like old people that forget things. I can’t understand, I’m not the same person. I’m a different person. Who gives this power to them to keep these people here for years and years and years, to make them mental and crazy?’ Levels of self-harm and suicide attempts in detentions are high.
This inhuman system has resulted in a huge amount of misery and many people have died in UK detention centres over the years.
In the face of the degrading conditions they are subject to and often with no idea of how long their incarceration will last, struggles from within detention centres are commonplace but are frequently misrepresented by mainstream media. Detainees have been on hunger strike and rioted to show their outrage. People who speak out against their treatment are generally subject to further punishment. For example Denise McNeil, who went on hunger strike in February 2010 and was then moved from Yarl’s Wood IRC to Holloway prison.
There are also groups on the outside committed to working to end the detention of migrants and support people who find themselves trapped in the system. The Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees lists visitors groups across the country that support detainees. No Borders campaigns for the end of border controls and supports detainees organising from within detention centres to challenge their treatment.