Self Harm Up 73% In Six Months In Migrant Prisons

This is a Red Alert that the jails and the Border agency system are absolutely wrong and inhumane in their approach. This is an expression of human pain that tells you the migrant gulag must be dismantled, for such activity to rise 73% in such a short time is profoundly indicative of the inequities and brutality of the institutions. Kudos to Emily Dugan for this report in The Independent-

Incidences of self-harm in immigration detention centres rose 73 per cent in the first six months of this year, Home Office figures have revealed. The sharp increase has provoked calls for the Government to re-examine its policy of treating asylum-seekers as prisoners. .

In the first six months of this year there were 109 cases of self-harm requiring medical attention. Colnbrook detention centre in Berkshire had the highest number, with 32 incidents so far this year. The numbers on self-harm watch have also risen – with 722 cases in the first half of 2008, up from 678 in the last six months of 2007. The total population of the country’s immigration detention centres is typically below 2,300.

When the Independent Asylum Commission concluded a review of the entire system earlier this year, it recommended the detention of asylum-seekers be reconsidered. Sir John Waite, the former High Court judge who chaired the commission, said: “This alarming figure confirms the anxiety which was expressed by us about the appropriateness of detention for asylum-seekers. It also confirms the need for a root-and-branch review of the entire policy.”

The UK Border Agency has already been criticised for its detention of vulnerable migrants and for the extended stays that many are forced to endure. Contrary to UN recommendations, there is no legal limit to the length of time a person can be held in a UK immigration detention centres. The Home Office no longer publishes a breakdown of the length of detention. Experts say it is not uncommon for asylum-seekers to be held for more than six months at a time. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “It is unacceptable to detain people without charge for long periods. There is only one proper response to the unacceptably high level of self-harm in detention, and that is for the Government to end the use of detention as part of its asylum policy.”

Despite the latest figures, the Government is determined to expand the immigration detention capacity from 2,500 to 4,000. Dr Cornelius Katona, of the asylum charity Medical Justice, said: “There is an enormous body of evidence that says detaining asylum-seekers is bad for their mental health. These are people who are very vulnerable.” Dr Katona estimates that at least half of the UK’s detainees suffer from mental illness. John O, of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, said: “I speak daily to people in detention and there is no solace you can give to a detainee who does not understand why they have been detained.”

A Border Agency spokesman insisted detention centres were “safe and secure”.

A detainee’s story: ‘They don’t treat you like a person’

Terri Matsvimbo, a 28-year-old asylum-seeker from Zimbabwe was held in Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire for four months this year. She was so distressed by her incarceration and her fears that she would be sent home that she began to self-harm.

In the worst of these incidents, she slit her wrists with razors that were provided by staff at the centre, despite her medical history of depression.

“I was just desperate,” she says. “They don’t treat you like a person there; people keeping animals would treat them with more respect.

“Being in Yarl’s Wood was the lowest I’ve ever been: it was mental torture at its worst. Now I’ve got mental and physical scars that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

3 Responses to “Self Harm Up 73% In Six Months In Migrant Prisons”

  1. harpymarx Says:

    It’s utterly appalling. Words actually fail me and how people are treated like they are rubbish by the British state.

  2. Dave (The Void) Says:

    That’s quite sudden, though, and we’ve been hearing chilling stories from the migrant gulag for years? what changed?

  3. RickB Says:

    Harpy- Yes.
    There is an interesting project coming up regarding habeas corpus for long term detainees which might help unravel this network of prison camps. More on that soonish.

    Dave- Good question, I don’t know of any specific policy change or change in how they do the figures but institutionally the Border and Immigration Agency was subsumed by the UK Border Agency
    –On 1st April 2008 the BIA became the UK Border Agency following a merger with UKvisas and the port of entry functions of HM Revenue and Customs.–
    At the same time multiple reports were turning up at how utterly brutal, corrupt and useless they were, unless of course you accept their function is to be brutal and terrorize migrants (that’s the function of US ICE part of ‘Homeland security’ -which is a term now used by our pols) so in the tail end of one and creation of another agency they evaded scrutiny (criticism deflected with ‘well we are changing’, wankers) meanwhile their function is all with added ‘waronterror’. They are more like a judge, jury and executioner for people without a UK passport or visa than ever. The govt response is a total stonewall, as this article repeats, so like with ICE I am weighing the evidence and concluding this is a designed function, to make the treatment/experience so bad it scares prospective migrants and refugees from trying (also Howard’s old policy) safe in the knowledge a racist press colludes in hiding it and there will always be enough to satisfy ‘indentured’ labour jobs and the system will ensure they remain completely terrified, very pliable slaves. At the same time we cherry pick skilled labour from abroad starving those countries of much needed expertise. (although perversely if you get here on your own initiative with skills we want you will usually be imprisoned and deported).

    PS. Personally I also suspect racist authoritarians gravitate towards work for these agencies and the private guards who beat up inmates. Our govt’s attitude is rewarding fascists with work, growing that minority with state sanction and wages, so it’s fatal from a democratic perspective too.


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