Week 7 of #Unlocked18 took us to Morton Hall IRC, near the small village of Swinderby in Lincolnshire. Surrounded by fields and villages, it is one of the UK’s most isolated and least-known detention centres. It was originally an RAF base before reopening as a prison in 1985, and became an IRC in May 2011.  It is the only remaining IRC to be run by the prison service rather than a private contractor. 

Morton Hall can hold up to 392 people in single occupancy rooms spread across six residential units (Fry, Windsor, Sharman, Johnson, Torr and Seacole – the induction unit) plus a care and separation unit (CSU). According to the latest statistics, 330 people were detained in Morton Hall on 30 June 2018, down from 384 from the year before.

Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group was established when the IRC opened in 2011, and Detention Action also supports people in Morton Hall over the phone.

There were six new blogs this week, as well as a twitter tour of the centre. Read on for a summary.

“I have seen that the detention system in the UK is broken”

For three and a half years, Rhiannon Prideaux visited people detained at Morton Hall with the Morton Hall Detainee Visitors Group. During that time, she visited six people:

The majority of them experienced periods of depression or more serious mental health issues.  All of them were told by the Home Office that they had no right to remain in the UK but only one was removed from the UK after detention.  Everyone else I visited was released back into the community after often long periods in detention which had a lasting impact on their health and wellbeing.

Read Rhiannon’s blog in full here

“There was a chance justice would be done.”

In the latest of a series of interviews conducted by experts-by-experience,  Mishka of Freed Voices interviewed Tamsin Alger, Deputy Director at Detention Action, about her experience of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) strategic litigation and campaign. 

As part of this interview, Mishka described his experience of going through the DFT. He said,

Going through DFT felt like my natural justice was breached. My liberty was taken away and I did not have proper access to quality legal advice until the very last moment; my access to justice was severely undermined… This experience of DFT therefore certainly shaped up my determination to campaign for detention reform. 

…Whilst going through DFT, I comprehended that it is not only the asylum claimants facing unfairness while in immigration detention. The same set of difficulties I had to face under DFT, others also were facing… This is one of the reasons why it is important for me to focus on everyone in detention during my campaign and advocacy work and I would say my experience of DFT had an impact on my determination and decision to become Mishka from Freed Voices.

Read the full interview here

Immigration detention is mental torture

Souleymane, a member of Freed Voices, was detained in the UK for three and a half years. He wrote this blog for #Unlocked18, which was shared with us via Samphire. In this powerful blog, Souleymane writes,

The UK is the only country in Europe with no time-limit on detention. There is no end in sight. And this is where mental torture really kicks in. The stress of indefinite detention had a huge impact on my mental health. It is like you are carrying a heavy load on your head everywhere you go… 

Sadly, the mental effect of detention does not stop when the gates open. When I was released, I felt like I had come out of a cave. I had been there so long I felt powerless and weak. I heard voices. I did not trust anyone. Even now, sometimes I wake in the night from flashbacks. The mental torture has not gone…. 

Please, join our fight for justice here, in the UK. It is time for a time limit. Toda raba, thank you.

“Once a criminal always a criminal”, especially if you don’t have a British passport

Celia Clarke and Rudy Schulkind at Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) wrote this blog about people who are detained in prisons under immigration powers. They write,

According to the latest figures, 378 people are held in prisons under immigration powers upon the completion of a custodial sentence. Many of them had indefinite leave to remain or even refugee status; many grew up in the UK and considered themselves British. Having served time and approaching their release date, individuals are shocked to find out (often on the day before their sentence expiry date) that they are going to be punished again: through revocation of their status; through deportation proceedings; through continued unlimited detention.

You can read Celia and Rudy’s blog in full here. You can also read a summary of the #Unlocked18 week on detention in prisons and short-term holding facilities here

Your pocket Home Office phrasebook: A dialect of dehumanisation

A popular blog this week came from Patrick Page, a senior caseworker in public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors and founder and editor of No Walls.

Patrick’s ‘pocket Home Office phasebook‘ explains the jargon used by government officials involved in immigration enforcement. This jargon is cloaked in the clinical language of administration, and is so consistently used, and relatively well-disguised, that we all end up picking it up.

In his phasebook, Patrick unpicks these terms. He separates the terms into four categories:

  1. People: how the people targeted by the hostile environment are labelled
  2. Control: language used to describe how to control those targeted
  3. Adjectives: how such people and their behaviour are described
  4. Places: the naming of the places in which the Home Office attempts to control people

Read the full piece here

‘The stain of detention will haunt us for the rest of our lives, but I don’t want it to define us’: Experts-by-experience give evidence to the JCHR inquiry

The final blog of the week came from A. Panquang, a member of Freed Voices and Detention Forum volunteer. He wrote about giving evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry into immigration detention. He writes,

To prepare myself to give evidence I read some of the other evidence that had been given to the JCHR before mine. To call these people experts is not completely misleading, because they are experts in their respective fields, but none of them know what it’s like to experience detention. We from Freed Voices are experts by experience. If anyone needed to understand about the inhumane conditions in immigration removal centres (IRCs), if anyone wanted to get a clear picture of the violations of Human Rights, they should be speaking to Freed Voices – Experts by experience.

You can read the blog in full here

Take action