Rather than do my revision, I decided that this situation was sufficiently fucked up to warrant writing a Black Star article:
Consider it step 1 in challenging some of the myths about asylum seekers living it up.
Its a bit long I know - so perhaps we should make the next issue a 4 page spread. And if someone can PM me the login details for the WMA libcom news account I'll put it up there as well.
HUNGER STRIKERS ATTEMPT SUICIDE
Detained asylum seekers across Britain have been engaged in an ongoing hunger strike in protest at their treatment and at the length of their detention without resolution of their legal status. Some of the detainees have become desperate and there have been a number of suicide attempts in the last few days.
The hunger strike started at the Colnbrook detention centre near Heathrow, when a demonstration was held outside by campaigners in support of the detainees within. The private security guards at the centre took exception to the detainees' desire to observe the demonstration through the windows and from the courtyard and a number of detainees were beaten and put into solitary confinement, including the centre's Pastor Michael Etim. This treatment proved to be the final straw and hundreds of detainees in the Colnbrook, Haslar (near Portsmouth) and Long Lartin (in Worcester) detention centres began refusing food and water.
Amos Onokare Alijaibo is one hunger striker, and he spoke to reporters from the Guardian. The guards responded by stripping him naked and beating him so badly that he lost consciousness. He awoke in a van on route to a different detention centre to find that he had lost the use of his hands and could only move around by hopping on one leg. He has been denied the use of a wheelchair, suffers sharp pains in his back and is having trouble passing urine. When a doctor was able to examine Amos he confirmed that his injuries were consistent with the beating he described.
Romeo Dzamba is a relative of Pascal Lissoubo, the deposed President of Congo, and saw three of his immediate family murdered before he fled. He has valid papers allowing him to stay in Britain, but was put in detention shortly after he filed a complaint against the police for searching his flat without a warrant. He has been in detention for 6 months and has been refused access to legal representation to challenge his imprisonment and has recently been held completely incommunicado. Because of this he joined the hunger strike against his detention, and in return he was handcuffed and has his head repeatedly hit against the floor. He has been sexually assaulted by officers putting their fingers in his anus.
Tariq Rashid, from Iraq, has been in detention for 19 months and has also been beaten by the guards in Colnbrook. His asylum application was refused, but the government left him in detention in legal limbo and he has been refused bail 4 times. After the last refusal he filled in the forms to be voluntarily returned to Iraq, and has so far submitted these forms 10 times. The immigration services have, despite their refusal of his asylum claim, decided that it is not safe for him to be sent back to Iraq meaning he has been effectively sentenced to indefinite imprisonment without having committed any crime. On the 10th of May, at 6pm, he went to the office and collected a shaving razor, returned to his own room, broke it open and cut his own throat. Fortunately, another detainee found him before he bled to death and Tariq is currently in hospital.
The next day, at 8:30am, a Jamaican man tried to jump from a second floor window but was stopped by other detainees. Fifteen minutes later an Iranian man was found hanging with his own bedsheet around his neck, having previously tried to cut his own throat, but was also stopped by other detainees. The guards response to this first suicide attempt had been to place the man in solitary confinement.
7 of the 10 detention centres in the UK are run by private companies for a profit. Up to 2,600 people may be being held in these centres at any one time.