Image courtesy of Freed Voices
This post is written by Hamid, who has experienced immigration detention. His testimony was provided for Detention Action‘s forthcoming annual report.
In the three and a half years I was in detention, I was visited twice by the Home Office – first, they took my fingerprints and then to take my photo. That was it. They gave me no reasons why I was at Harmondsworth IRC or how long I would stay. The monthly reports they sent me just said they were waiting to hear back from the Iranian embassy. But I knew that without passport or ID card, the Iranian embassy would not give them travel documents. I knew it, the embassy knew it, the Home Office knew it, everybody knew it. The Iranian embassy even closed and they still kept me locked up! I could not understand why I was not being released. I co-operated from day one. I started to think the Home Office were evil and torturing me on purpose. I tried to understand their reasons but I could not find any. It did not make sense. I remember thinking to myself that ‘there must be another way’.
When I was finally released from detention I felt lost. I felt scared. I had been isolated so long I couldn’t look people in the eye. I was so used to only ever moving a few metres this way or that, I found it difficult to walk any more than that. The Home Office had turned off my brain for three and a half years, so I had trouble reading. Even basic street or shop signs.
Last week, almost fifteen years after I first claimed asylum, I won the appeal on my fresh claim. When I look back it is still very difficult to understand why I was ever in detention during this period. Even the Home Office do not seem to know. Earlier this year, they offered me tens of thousands of pounds in financial compensation. They admitted that my detention was unlawful. So why did they do it then? They knew I could not go back. They have lost lots of money, I have lost my mental health. So who won? I did not need to be locked up for them to telephone the Iranian embassy every few months. With support and structure, I could have been adding to society. That way, everyone would have benefited.
We must ask politicians the million-dollar question: if detention does not work, and there are better and cheaper alternatives, why is the UK government still putting people in detention?
I think it is because detention in the UK is Big Business.