Archive for ukba

Child Detention: The Lowdown

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on Thursday, 10 February, 2011 by bristolnoborders

In May 2010, the new coalition government committed to ending child detention for immigration purposes. The ‘commitment’ had to wait another few months to materialise (only last week reports revealed that a 11-year-old girl had been detained at Tinsley House detention centre, near Gatwick, over Christmas). Meanwhile, the UK Border Agency has been experimenting with a new deportation process for families, spun as “a new, compassionate approach to family removals.” Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg went as far as claiming that this marked “an enormous culture shift within our immigration system.” But while many serious concerns regarding the rights and welfare of migrant families remain, the new system appears to have created a new market for detention and deportation profiteers.

New old pilots

The new deportation system for families involves three stages, euphemistically named Assisted Return, Required Return and Ensured Return. The idea is that measures taken to persuade or force a family to leave the country will get increasingly tougher the further through these stages the case progresses (for more details on the new system, see this ILPA info sheet). Along with these, three new schemes have been piloted in London and the North West: Family Conferences, Limited Notice (of removal) and Open Accommodation. Until 22nd November 2010, only the first two stages of the new process were being tested. In the six months since 1st June, however, out of 96 cases only two families took up the Assisted Return option and only one family was deported under Required Return. The Home Office appeared to be rather disappointed with the results, of course (see this interim assessment). And thus, two secure hostels, run by private accommodation providers, were identified in Liverpool and London to “ensure” the return of families who have exhausted the Assisted and Required Return routes but have “failed to comply” with the deportation orders. Here, families will be kept for a minimum of 72 hours before being forcibly deported, but can be kept for up to a month where removal is not possible for one reason or another. In line with the immigration newspeak, these new deportation hostels are being called ‘open accommodation’. A UKBA document, dated November 2010 and titled “Open Accommodation: Accommodating Families Outside of Detention”, describes the pilot scheme as “a radically different approach” to the way the UKBA deals with migrant families due for deportation that is designed to “secure departure without the need for immigration detention.” Explaining the rationale behind the pilot, the document goes on to state that, “We know that there will be some families who, despite our best efforts, will not comply with offers to leave… We consider that moving such families out of their existing accommodation and away from community links and ties they have built up will signal to them that they have reached the end of the road and enable them to understand that their removal will happen.” In other words, uprooting families from their communities will make deportation easier as families would not have access to the support networks they would have if they stayed in the community. Similar practices are followed by other European countries that already operate similar systems. This is not the first time that different types of temporary accommodation to house families prior to deportation have been used, with one such scheme still ongoing in Glasgow. A similar pilot was also tried for 10 months in 2007-2008 in Millbank, Kent. Evidence suggests that this pilot actually decreased the likelihood of families complying with the immigration authorities and many reported feeling “coerced and frightened” (see this independent evaluation). However, the use of the new deportation hostels differs from past attempts in that it is part of the last stage of a new deportation system to ‘ensure return.’ In other words, families are not taken to these hostels with the aim of ‘persuading’ them to leave the UK ‘voluntarily’. They are, rather, flagged for ‘open accommodation’ by a newly formed Family Returns Panel, on the recommendation of the UKBA ‘case owners’, due to their perceived ‘non-cooperation’ in the past. In most other cases, deportation will be carried out from the families’ existing accommodation (provided under sections 4 or 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999). But this might change soon if deportation hostels are rolled out. That, in essence, is the coalition government’s response to ending child detention.

Brigstock House

One of the places identified for the ‘open accommodation’ pilot is an anonymous-looking hostel in Thornton Heath, near Croydon. Brigstock House (57 Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath, CR7 7JH) is an eight-room, double-fronted detached Edwardian house, which has undergone some alterations. Since January 1991, it has been used as a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities, run by BDC Supporting Services, an umbrella group incorporating four residential care homes in the area (see here). According to UKBA documents, it has recently also been used for initial asylum accommodation, where people are housed temporarily upon arrival before they are ‘dispersed’ to other parts of the country. Following the announcement of the pilot scheme, it was decided to ‘convert’ part of Brigstock House to accommodate a selected number of families to be deported under the Ensured Return option, who will apparently be kept in a separate wing of the hostel on a full-board basis, with access to the communal bathrooms. Until June 2010, most asylum and bail hostels in the Greater London area were managed by private accommodation provider Clearsprings (Management) Ltd. The company is the third-largest asylum accommodation provider in the UK after the Angel Group and United Property Management, and is the main provider in the London area. In March 2006, it was awarded, along with seven other companies, a five-year contract worth £153,119,067. The Angel Group’s contract’s value was £275,441,736, and UPM’s £170,152,129. The division of the Clearsprings Group responsible for short-term accommodation has recently been renamed Ready Homes (see here). In June 2007, a new a government-funded scheme called Bail Accommodation and Support Service (BASS) was introduced to provide accommodation and ‘support services’ to people released from prison on bail or home detention curfew (HDC) but do not have a suitable address. For three years, BASS services were provided by ClearSprings. On 18 June 2010, a new three-year contract was awarded to housing charity Stonham (see here). A division of Home Group Ltd, Stonham is one of the UK’s largest providers of housing and support services for vulnerable people (see here). The UKBA has indicated that the new deportation hostels will be initially run be third-sector organisations – a typical first stage in privatisation processes. Brigstock House has a 24-hour ‘reception’ service, which will register families when they move in and out of the hostel and ask them to sign a daily register. The UKBA claims staff will not monitor the normal comings and goings of individual people but will know if a family does not return to the hostel and inform the immigration authorities immediately. The local immigration enforcement team to be responsible for Brigstock House is based at Becket House immigration reporting centre, near London Bridge.

How open is open?

The Home Office insists that “open accommodation is not detention.” Accommodation to be used in the pilot scheme is described in the afore-mentioned UKBA document as “a residential building where families will be free to come and go as they please.” This will apparently be similar to the initial accommodation used at the beginning of the asylum process before people are dispersed to privately provided accommodation in other parts of the country. Detention under immigration powers is defined as holding a person on UKBA-designated premises, whether they are taken there by an immigration officer or after attending there voluntarily, for any length of time (Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009). In other words, their freedom of movement is restricted and they are deprived of their liberty. Deportation hostels are clearly not ‘open’ in that sense as families are required to stay there overnight and their movement is constantly monitored. If anything, it is more like a house arrest. This is illustrated more clearly in another proposed ‘open accommodation’ facility in Crawley, Sussex (see below). A letter by the Home Office consultants sent to local residents to ‘reassure’ them about the new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ states that the facility will have a 2.5-metre perimeter fence. The UKBA also claims that transfer to Open Accommodation will be “on a voluntary basis.” However, families will be threatened that, if they refused to move, they might lose their existing accommodation and become destitute. That is hardly voluntary. The initial length of stay for families in ‘open accommodation’ will be 72 hours, or three days and three nights. Should their removal fail, however, their case will be referred back to the Family Returns Panel for further consideration, while the family remains in the hostel. The Panel will then consider whether any extension of stay is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. According to the pilot scheme proposals, the Panel may authorise an extended stay for up to 28 days. Where removal fails again (for example, if travel documents could not be obtained), the family will be transferred back to Section 95 or Section 4 accommodation in their previous region, but not at the same address where they were previously housed. It is not difficult to see how things could go wrong at each and every step of this process. After all, how many asylum seekers have been staying at the same ‘temporary’ accommodation, often in bad, uninhabitable conditions, for months and years?

Short notice

As indicated above, another new scheme introduced recently, besides Open Accommodation, is known as Limited Notice. This means issuing Removal Directions, or deportation order letters, without specifying the precise date for which the removal is set (see here). Like with charter flight deportations, which are subject to “special arrangements”, the letters only state that the removal will take place within 21 days and no sooner than 72 hours. There have already been legal and other challenges to this practice, as it often creates practical barriers to migrants accessing legal representation to challenge their removal and, therefore, increase the risk that people who have well-founded fears of persecution in their countries of origin may be forcibly deported from the UK. The uncertainty that this situation creates is also proven to cause considerable distress to families (see here, for example). Other options that are being considered by the Home Office include increasing the use of electronic tagging, increasing reporting restrictions, detaining one parent, or any combination of these. In the new family deportation system, when the local Immigration Team refers a ‘non-cooperating’ family to the Family Returns Panel, it will only notify the family and their legal representatives, seven days in advance of the move, that they will be moved to another accommodation in a different area, without making it clear that this will be to an ‘open accommodation’; “just in a different area and in different accommodation,” as the UKBA instructions state. Once there (at Brigstock House, say), they will be served with removal directions by an immigration officer from the local London region, with the ‘no sooner than 72 hours, no later than 21 days’ notice. Moreover, the immigration authorities will also inform the local authorities of the family’s move and that the family will “continue to be supported by UKBA, just in a different area,” in order to pre-empt any request by the family to the local authority for emergency accommodation on the basis that they will become homeless.

Welfare?

The UKBA documents outlining its ‘open accommodation’ plans claim that vulnerable families with specific medical needs are “not suitable for the open accommodation pilot.” However, the UK’s detention history shows that the agency simply disregards such concerns unless it is, occasionally, forced to revise its decisions by campaigners or courts. Indeed, hundreds of torture victims, people with HIV, pregnant women, children and people with serious medical problems have been swallowed by the brutal detention and deportation machine. The plans also claim that ‘open accommodation’ is consistent with Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, which requires the Home Office to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the United Kingdom,” and with the recommendations of the Child Detention Review that ended child detention. It is difficult to see how uprooting families from their communities and forcing them into poorly equipped, temporary hostels can be regarded as safeguarding their welfare. For example, the UKBA does not intend to “provide an exhaustive list of medical issues” that may prevent families being moved into open accommodation. Instead, the Family Returns Panel will be assessing families “on a case-by-case basis.” Brigstock House is allegedly provided with an “on-site health facility” that is staffed by a nurse. A GP is said to visit two days a week. Yet, it is well known from previous experience (in family detention centres) that this structure of provision is not capable of dealing with serious issues, such as distress and other psychological problems created by the asylum system. In fact, whereas detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood were provided with some sort of schooling for children, deportation hostels will have no such facility. Instead, children will be offered “age-related work packs.” This is justified with the argument that “families will be in Open Accommodation for as little as 72 hours,” despite admissions that they may stay for up to a month in some cases. Moreover, families in the pilot scheme will not be provided with any cash support. They will, therefore, have no money for travel to visit legal representatives, for example.

Trained?

The UKBA claims that all deportation hostel staff will be “fully CRB-checked, have had disability training and food safety training where appropriate, and have received training in conflict management.” However, judging from similar facilities run by private providers, such as initial asylum accommodation hostels, this sounds rather exaggerated. For example, many migrants who have been through such hostels confirm that ‘conflict management’ often means simply shutting people up or, where a distressed person or child may have caused ‘disruption’, calling the immigration authorities or police. Deportation hostel staff will also be instructed to immediately call the police when “third parties (for example, family associates or campaigning parties) interested in a particular family’s case” turn up at the hostel and “cause disruption.” The Family Returns Panel will be made up of members of the UK Border Agency and professionals from other agencies, who “may include” representatives from social services, the Department for Education and, “in some cases,” a health professional. The aim is that the Panel will consider the welfare of the family to decide what is the “most appropriate way” for the UKBA to ensure that the family leaves the UK. This aim, or assumption, will inevitably lead to a culture of institutional abuse and negligence, as detention centres have long shown.

New business opportunities for detention profiteers

As the ‘open accommodation’ pilot was being devised, the UKBA insisted that “any new approach to managing families must be affordable within the UK Border Agency’s settlement in the Comprehensive Spending Review.” The other consideration was “improving the speed of asylum decisions and case conclusions.” Indeed, the document outlining the plans was “first shared with corporate partners” on 8th November 2010, before being released to the public. The UKBA’s Corporate Partner Group, which provides “a forum for the agency’s chief executive and board to work more closely with our key partners on strategic issues and to share information regularly,” consists of representatives from a number of selected business and NGOs involved in the immigration and asylum system. These include the Board of Airline Representatives, the Confederation of British Industry, Refugee Council, the UNHCR, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association and so on (you can find a full list here). The group meets quarterly, enabling “open and constructive discussion” about how the UKBA should develop and deliver its policies. The agency also publishes a bi-monthly update for its corporate partners called UK Border Agency News (see here). These may be a good source of information but are also places where commercial intentions and plans are communicated to businesses looking out for new opportunities in the immigration market. Another such channel is the Commercial Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services (COMPASS), which was launched in 2009 to “provide ongoing contract provision for asylum and refugee support services.” After two ‘successful’ supplier conferences in October 2010, the UKBA has held a series of one-to-one meetings with “interested potential commercial partners” to “discuss the feasibility of the different contract delivery models.” And this brings us to another recent ‘open accommodation’ plan.

‘Pease pottage hot, pease pottage cold’

It has recently transpired that the UKBA has applied for planning permission to convert another facility, a residential school for children with behavioural and learning difficulties in Pease Pottage, Crawley, Sussex, into a ‘pre-departure accommodation facility’ – another euphemism for deportation hostels. The Crawley Forest School is owned by Crossroads Childrens Education Services Ltd., a private company wholly owned by its director Sunita Arora, the wife of Surinder Arora, the owner and founder of Arora International Hotels. No open procurement tendering process for the facility, as required by EU and UK legislation, has taken place, which suggests that there may have been some dodgy, behind-closed-doors deal between the UKBA and the Arora Group, following the latter’s failure to gain a slice of the detention market last year (see below). The school itself, which has been told to vacate the property by 1st April 2011, was apparently unaware of the new plans until it was contacted by campaigners. The new facility, which will have the capacity to accommodate eight families, is intended to open in mid-May. The Home Office will lease the building from Crossroads, whilst the day-to-day running of the centre will be outsourced to a ‘third-sector’ provider. In an attempt to avoid a repeat of previous embarrassing experiences, a ‘consultation letter’, dated 25th January 2011, has been sent to local residents on behalf of the Home Office by private consultation firm CgMs Consulting, trying to convince them of the new project (a copy of the letter can be found here). Citing the coalition government’s policy on ending child detention, the letter argues that “the need remains to provide a suitable facility to accommodate families whose removal from the UK is being enforced.” And this “pre-departure accommodation,” it claims, “provides that solution.” This is partly justified by the site’s proximity to Gatwick and Heathrow airports, implying that this would make deportations easier. The letter then reassures residents that the facility already has a 2.5m palisade fence, with electronic entrance gates, and that “there is no requirement to alter this boundary treatment.” It also claims that families will be accommodated for a maximum of 72 hours or, in exceptional cases, for up to one week, which is not exactly accurate. As to the timescale, the letter apologises for the short notice and claims that this was due to “the closure of previous facilities” (meaning family wings at immigration detention centres) and that it is important for the government’s new plans that the new facility is operational by 11 May 2011. The letter also claims that the Crawley Forest School currently has only 8 residential pupils, despite having the ability to house 35 residential and 35 day pupils, making the project “unviable.” The school management, however, disputes this claim and says the school was only ever equipped to accommodate 12 to 18 pupils. CgMs has worked for the Home Office as a “consultant on property matters” since 1997 (see here). Its portfolio includes “providing advice on numerous existing and new Removal Centres nationwide.” These apparently include “20-30 proposed Immigration Accommodation Centres nationwide before the Accommodation Centre policy was changed by the Government.” The company has also been involved in “advice, applications and appeals for related Reception, Induction, Reporting and Hearing Centres.” The reason for this, in the words of the company, is that “because of the nature of the users, these have nearly always proved controversial, involving sensitive and comprehensive consultation with local residents, councillors and other stakeholders.” In 2009, Arora Management Services, which owns a series of luxury hotels close to airports, applied to the Crawley Borough Council for permission to convert its four-star hotel Mercure, near Gatwick, into an immigration detention centre, driven by “a decline in business” (see this Corporate Watch article for details). The move sparked a concerted campaign against Arora by No Borders and other anti-detention activists, with protests and actions taking place at Arora hotels across the country. The Crawley Borough Council’s Development Control Committee eventually rejected the planning application. Since news of the plan for the new deportation hostel in Pease Pottage transpired, No Borders has announced that it will immediately start a campaign against the new facility (see here). “If Arora thought they can get this through without anybody noticing it,” a spokesperson for the group said, “they have failed”.

Article Produced by Corporate Watch

Missed Appointments: The Nigerian prince and the UK failed immigration system by Corporate Watch

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Thursday, 6 May, 2010 by bristolnoborders

Last February The Independent ran a story about a Nigerian prince who had suffered prolonged mistreatment in UK detention centres to the extent that he allegedly “begged” the Home Office to return him back home, where he had suffered gunshot wounds and beatings at the hands of his torturers. The article by Robert Verkaik, however, omitted important details of the systematic failures of the UK Border Agency and G4S, despite swathes of evidence sent to the paper’s Home Affairs editor by Prince Ademola Babatunde Bakare via his supporters. Without the details, the article almost rendered him “a fussy prince moaning about not being looked after,” as one of his visitors put it. The documents have since been passed to Corporate Watch and Mr Bakare has left the country with serious medical conditions resulting from the systematic negligence he received in detention. Here is the full story.

Royal affairs

Prince Bakare comes from the Ajike royal family, one of three royal families in the city of Owo, the state of Ondo, Nigeria vying for power. In February 1999, when Olateru Olabegi III was installed as the new king of Owo, his appointment was challenged by Prince’s family as illegitimate. In May 1999, Adebayo Adefarati became the governor of Ondo and supported the family’s claims to royal rule. Resources from Prince’s cocoa business, including his vehicles, were used by a local militia known as the Ehin Ogbe Boys in the struggle against Olabegi, who is aligned with the ruling party in Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party. One of Prince’s uncles, who had raised him, was Chief Ademiyi Bayo Ajike, the former director of the state security service and a leader of opposition movement, Alliance for Democracy.

Soon the Ajike family received a threat from Olabegi that “your blood will be shed in your own town” and many family members immediately left the area. A series of violent clashes between Olabegi’s ‘Palace Boys’, backed by the federal police, and the Ehin Ogbe Boys followed, in which many lives were lost and property destroyed. Prince’s business partner was killed by a shot in the head and one of his staff murdered. Bakare himself was shot in the legs and stabbed in the hand while trying to defend himself; his teeth smashed and his toe nails ripped off with pliers during torture sessions designed to find his uncles’ whereabouts. He was eventually rescued by the Ehin Ogbe Boys but the troubles did not stop.

In 2004, Bakare’s wife was raped and stabbed in the back; his three-year-old son burned with boiling water and his house set on fire. The family were rescued by the Ekiti state’s security services and eventually fled to Canada. In January 2008, Bakare and his uncle, Chief Ademiyi Bayo Ajike, were attacked in Benin, where they had fled for safety. His uncle was tortured then shot and bled to death, while Prince was shot in the legs and had his rips broken.

Prince was meant to accompany his family to Canada but mistakenly boarded the wrong ship in Togo, which carried him to Ireland. He came to the UK in March 2008 and was subsequently arrested for using false documents while trying to join his family.

The crime of seeking asylum

Prince Bakare was arrested on 25 December 2008 at Gatwick airport for using a forged passport. He claimed asylum on the same day on the advice of the police officers. He was taken straight away to High Down Prison in Sutton. On 13th January 2009, he was transferred to Lewes Prison, having been sentenced to six months imprisonment for possession of a false passport. After about 10 days, he was transferred to HMP Canterbury, where he spent over 5 months. After serving his sentence, he was transferred to Brook House immigration detention centre at Gatwick airport, which is run on behalf of the UKBA by G4S. His asylum claim was refused but the Home Office refusal letter is full of misunderstandings and factual mistakes.

Two Rule 35 reports relating to his torture and gunshot wounds were submitted to the UKBA, the first on 2nd July 2009 and the second on 4th August 2009. Detention Centre Rule 35 requires detention centre doctors to report to the UKBA “any detained person whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued detention or any conditions of detention.” On 14th August, Prince received a letter from his caseworker acknowledging the receipt of the first Rule 35 submission and stating that the UKBA was considering his release on a temporary admission. His detention was being “maintained for a short period” pending the decision, the letter by Shyama Reveendiran said. More than six months later, he still had not received any further correspondence from the UKBA. His Rule 35 reports were effectively ignored by his caseworker or someone higher up in the UKBA, despite strong evidence that he had a special medical condition. There is abundant evidence that such reports are often ignored by Home Office caseworkers (see here for more details).

Prince also applied for bail but this was refused on 24th August 2009. The Home Office representative claimed at the bail hearing that he was receiving treatment in detention for problems with his legs when he had not, in fact, received any proper treatment for that ailment apart from referrals to a specialist, which never materialised, thanks to G4S. In a letter by Saxonbrook Medical Centre dated 21st August 2009, in response to a fax query by Prince’s caseworker asking whether he was receiving any treatment, Dr A Gascoyne clearly stated that “the afore mentioned man has been referred to a vascular surgeon for his chronic leg symptoms on the 18th of August and is awaiting hospital appointment for this.” No mention of any ‘treatment’.

In November 2009, Prince lost his appeal, with the Home Office arguing he would be safe if he relocated to another part of Nigeria (the ‘internal flight’ argument), never mind the fact that he had tried that in the past, and even fled to another country (Benin), and was nevertheless reached by his enemies. Nigeria is on a so-called ‘white list’ of countries whose nationals’ asylum claims are automatically considered ‘manifestly unfounded’ and are therefore often not considered properly. Section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 sets out a ‘certification process’ by which asylum and human rights claims can be certified ‘manifestly unfounded’, where there is no right to an in-country appeal. Although only Nigerian male cases are officially on the ‘white list’, an institutionalised perception that all Nigerian cases are ‘unfounded’ leads to the effective suppression of evidence that violence or persecution has occurred, including medical evidence that is often highly consistent with the claimant’s account of how he or she sustained their injuries or scars. The result is a near-automatic dismissal by Home Office caseworkers of Nigerian asylum claims, regardless of their merits or supporting evidence.

After he lost his appeal, the immigration authorities were planning to transfer him to Dungavel detention centre in Scotland. He was, however, kept in Brook House as he was not fit for travel. Immigration officers also threatened him repeatedly that if he did not sign ‘voluntary return’ papers, then he would “remain in detention for a long time.” He initially refused to sign as he felt there was still some hope in his appeal and because he also feared making himself known to the Nigerian authorities. Towards the end of 2009, however, as his pain was increasing and hope diminishing, he decided to sign the papers and return to his unsafe country through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). He was, nonetheless, returned on a Frontex-operated mass deportation flight on 3rd February 2010.

Fit for detention?

Prince had had 26 bullets removed from his body, leaving extensive damage to his legs’ veins, which doctors say will never function properly again. A gunshot wound on the ankle, from the Benin attack, was apparently left open after an operation. The wound healed slowly but Prince developed varicose veins, with a clearly swollen left foot. He was also suffering back problems because of being beaten with heavy sticks and chains in Nigeria. Now he could not sit down for more than an hour and the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) machine he was given in HMP Canterbury was no longer of much help. He also had some sight problems due to a fracture in his skull.

Prince complains that the healthcare professional at Canterbury prison “did not provide the proper standard of care that I needed. Instead, I was given the same drugs [mainly pain killers] from January to May 2009.” The drugs’ side effects eventually got worse and he began to suffer from a pain in his lungs and stomach. But things could get much worse, as he was to find out when he was transferred to an immigration prison.

Dr Frank Arnold of Medical Justice, who examined Prince on 1st September 2009 in Brook House, found “strong clinical evidence in the form of many scars and other lesions, including gunshot wounds to both legs, which show that there is a reasonable likelihood that he has been the victim of organised violence.” He further found that Mr Bakare showed “strong evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.” This and similar medico-legal evidence was effectively suppressed by the Home Office.

As a victim of torture, and especially one with serious medical problems, Prince Bakare should not have been detained for such a long period of time. The UKBA’s own Operation Enforcement Manual states that torture survivors, children and people with serious medical and psychiatric conditions should only be subjected to administrative detention “under very exceptional circumstances.” Data on the number of torture survivors who are detained in the UK is not readily available but, in 2007, more than 150 asylum seekers were released from detention after being assessed by the Medical Foundation following claims of torture in their country of origin. According to a report in March 2008 by the Immigration Asylum Commission (IAC), and as exemplified by cases referred to the MF, many torture survivors continue to be detained (see here for more details).

Missed appointments

Over the six months or so that he spent in detention, Prince was seen by many health professionals and referred to specialists several times for his serious medical problems. He never managed to see one, however, because G4S, the private company that manages the detention centre where he was locked up, claimed every time that there was “no transport available” to take him to his appointments. Instead, he was referred back to the detention centre’s healthcare facility, which did not seem to be able, or willing, to provide him with the treatment he needed.

On 24th July 2009, Prince had an appointment at the Orthotic (Surgical Appliances) Clinic at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, booked for him by his previous GP. He had been transferred from Canterbury prison to Brook House, so the prison management sent a letter, dated 10th July, to the detention centre management notifying them of the appointment and asking them to cancel it should he not be able to attend. The appointment was not cancelled but Prince could not attend as “no transport was available” to take him.

The same happened on 6th August with an appointment at the Hip to Toe clinic at Crawley Hospital. A letter from the clinic to the detention centre management said that Mr Bakare had been given another appointment but, if he failed to show up this time, “he will be discharged back to yourselves.” And, indeed, that is what happened. A letter from his GP, Dr Farrah Sherpao of Saxonbrook Medical Centre, said she “can’t give him [a] reason why his appointment got missed” and reminded the detention centre management that G4S was “responsible for taking detainees to their appointments.”

At least four medical appointments in a row were missed for apparently the same reason. After each missed appointment, Prince sent a complaint letter to the Brook House management asking for an explanation why his appointment had been cancelled. On two occasions, G4S acknowledged the receipt of his complaint and promised a “full investigation.” Only on one occasion a letter by the centre’s deputy director, Derek Milliken, dated 24th August 2009, apologised for the appointment being cancelled and claimed there was “lack of transport available” due to “circumstances beyond our control.” There was no explanation what these circumstances were. All other complaints were simply ignored, despite further letters by Prince complaining about the lack of response. To quote one of his letters, “It seems to me you can afford my complaints.”

And that’s not all. On 30th October, 2009, Prince missed his appeal hearing at Brentford Magistrate’s Court because “there was no transport available.” A G4S manager, called Mr Ian, told Prince, about an hour before the time of the hearing, that his hearing had been cancelled and claimed that the immigration authorities had “not approved his transport.” Prince immediately called his solicitor but could not get hold of him, so he called the court directly and was told his hearing had not been cancelled and that they were still expecting him.

The Immigration and Asylum Tribunal at Hatton Cross has admitted that this is not an uncommon experience and that Brook House has been “particularly bad” in this regard, blaming G4S. Even G4S staff have admitted that “this happens quite a lot” but blamed the UKBA’s Detainee Escorting and Population Management Unit (DEPMU), which they claimed cancelled appointments without informing G4S.

The second time round, after his appeal hearing was rescheduled, Prince was delayed for several hours for no apparent reason before he was eventually taken to the court. Again, no explanation was given by G4S and his complaint went unanswered. Even a long letter by the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group to David Wood, then head of Criminality and Detention at the UKBA, expressing “serious concerns… over the provision of escort of detainees,” did not get anywhere.

The letter, of which Prince kept a copy, states that the visiting group has “heard numerous complaints from detainees that hospital appointments have been cancelled due to lack of transport.” This has been corroborated by the GUM clinic at Crawley Hospital, which said there has been “a catalogue of missed appointments and inaccurate information about HIV-positive detainees.” So Prince’s case does not appear to be unique, except perhaps that he has managed to collect enough evidence to prove it. Indeed, many campaigners and detainee visitors have said this was “one of many systematic failures throughout the detention estate.”

But Prince had not yet given up. Among others, he wrote to his MP, Nick Raynsford (Labour, Greenwich & Woolwich), who wrote to immigration minister Phil Woolas on 4th November 2009, asking why G4S had failed to take Mr Bakare to his medical appointment and appeal hearing. About a month later, on 30th November, the minister replied saying that, “due to resourcing and unforeseen circumstance that arose [on the two occasions the MP had highlighted], G4S were unable to provide the transportation required to take Mr Bakare to the appointments booked.” Mr Woolas also claimed that, “as a result of these missed appointments, G4S has been asked to review their procedures and has put into place processes, which have been approved by the UK Border Agency, which will stop this occurring again.”

Of course, they did occur again and again, not least to Prince Bakare himself, who was not able to see a specialist until he gave up and opted to go and see one in Nigeria instead.

Retaliation?

During his last month in detention, Prince started to ‘threaten’ the detention centre management that he was considering going to the press as a last resort. This seems to have backfired as the G4S management, as well as the UKBA, became more aggressive towards him. They also started to make false allegations about his ‘aggressive’ behaviour to discredit his claims and justify his bad treatment in case the story broke out.

On 14th January 2010, Prince received a letter from the UKBA terminating his ‘job’ at Brook House as a ‘wing servery’, claiming that he had been “extremely aggressive” and “abusive” towards a UKBA member of staff in the interview corridor. According to Prince, all he did was to ask the member of staff to get his caseworker to put a message, she was carrying from the latter, in writing. The message from the caseworker was that Prince should not ring his office any more.

In a response letter dated 16th January, Prince denied the allegations and pointed out that, if he had acted aggressively as claimed, why was he not arrested immediately by G4S security guards or put in isolation for 24 hours whilst the case was investigated, as is usually the case. Furthermore, Prince argued, as an allegedly aggressive person, he would not have been able to keep his ‘job’ as a ‘wing servery’ for so long, in fact up till the day after the alleged incident.

‘Voluntary’ return

As mentioned above, Prince had signed a ‘voluntary return’ agreement with the IOM, which arranges refugees’ return to their home countries if they drop their asylum claims. After a two-month delay in issuing him with travel documents, Prince was not returned by IOM on a commercial flight, as is usually the case, but was, instead, put on a mass deportation flight to Nigeria operated by the EU border agency, Frontex. The joint European charter flight on 3rd February 2010, which went via Ireland and Spain, saw Prince, along with other deportees, being treated “like an animal.”

In a letter from Nigeria to his supporters, Prince said that some people on that flight, which included families and children, were beaten by the security guards and treated “very badly… they were being dragged like a dead person [sic].” A boy was beaten up “bitterly” when he started to shout that he had left Nigeria at the age of three and did not have any relatives in Nigeria any more. The beating must have been so hard, Prince wrote, that “loud crying” could be heard from the crowd, presumably by the boy’s family, and the boy had to be seen by medics. Many deportees, each accompanied by two security guards, were also shouting that they had court hearings pending or wives and children in UK.

When they were left in an open-field cargo airport in Lagos, many deportees’ belongings went missing. Despite being a ‘voluntary passenger’, Prince was “traumatised” by the experience of being deported on a mass deportation flight. His hands and legs were in pain from the handcuffs and the long hours of sitting still. On top of the journey, deportees had to wait on the coach for seven hours, from 11am to 6pm, without being allowed to move or stand up. The security guards, on the other hand, had a break every 30 minutes and swapped places with other security guards not charged with ‘escorting’ deportees. Noticing his increasing pain, one of the medics on board the plane told immigration officers that Prince “should not have been there” but was ignored. Previous medical reports clearly stated that he was not fit for travelling and flying, certainly not in handcuffs.

Prince has been in hiding in Nigeria for almost three months now and is scared he might be killed. He is awaiting an opportunity to be able to leave the country and join his family in Canada. He is also determined to take the UK immigration authorities and G4S to court, not least to prevent this happening again in the future to other unfortunate people who end up in their caring hands.

Some quotes from Prince

“I was advised that people claiming asylum were treated really badly in the UK. I simply wanted to join my family in Canada. I had no intention of remaining in the UK.” – from a witness statement by Prince Bakare, dated 28/9/2009, in response to the Home Office refusal letter.

“Being in detention makes me terrified everyday that I am going to die.” – from a personal letter from Prince to supporters.

“This negligence attitude [of G4S] affected me physically and psychologically because I thought I am going to die.” – letter.

“The Home Office is using my illness to torture me.” – letter.

“I am a torture survivor and am still suffering seriously from my past torture, which I needed proper standard medical care for. […] Please I need your help to publish this situation in papers, internet etc. after I have left this country.” – letter.

“I had the shock of my life when we started our journey from Tinsely House to the airport. […] Everywhere I looked, there was punishment without crime. […] Every time I remember how we detainees were treated on that charter flight, a haunting emptiness descends over my heart.” – from a letter after leaving the UK, describing the charter flight experience.

“I never wanted to stay or live in this useless country. All I wanted was some appropriate medical treatment and to be treated like a human being, not like a criminal.” – phone call.

No Borders Round-Up 01/03/10

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on Monday, 1 March, 2010 by bristolnoborders

Culture of Disbelief and Denial

Lawyers are due to launch a legal challenge today on behalf of four women held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, claiming their incarceration amounts to “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment that breaches their Both Serco (who runs Yarl’s Wood) and The Home Office have issued statements denying that a) any mistreatment took place and b) denying that the women were/ still are on hunger strike.

Meanwhile, The Former Case Officer The UKBA Cardiff Office (The regional Headquarters which includes Bristol) spoke at the Malcolm X centre on Bristol on Tuesday to an audience of over 200 people. Her revelations (if you’ve missed can be read in here Guardian article here but they told us what we already knew or guessed: That most people judging whether people should be granted asylum are Daily Mail reading racists who would “Like to take them (Asylum Seekers) out the back and shoot them”.

Off the back of the revelations, Refugee Voice called for a demo outside the offices in Cardiff. The photo below shows that it was well attended. The only question is whether Lou Perrit was the first person to bring maltreatment by UKBA, or was she just the first (white) person that anyone believed ? Anyway, our comrades from South Wales No Borders, are no doubt pleased that people have finally caught on to why they have picketed the office for several years.

Yarl’s Wood Hunger Strike Continues – Interview with Striker

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on Thursday, 25 February, 2010 by bristolnoborders

Yesterday Meg Hiller from the Home office wrote a letter to all MP’s:

“The current misreporting, based on inaccurate and fabricated statements
by those who campaign against our policy, is irresponsible as it causes
unnecessary distress to the women at Yarl’s Wood, their family and friends
and those who work at the Centre to ensure the detainees are treated with
respect.”

So stop it, you are embarrassing the government!

SOAS cleaners update

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on Sunday, 5 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

SOAS cleaners update

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/07/433893.html

More news is emerging of just how dehumanising and brutal have been the effects of the immigration raids at SOAS organised by external contractor ISS shortly after the cleaners won union recognition and pay rises to the level of the London living wage.

One of the UNISON members picked up, who was traumatised by the clandestine nature of the raid and the appearance of around 40 officers in full body armour, arrived back in Bogota, 48 hours after the raid, wearing the same clothes she was arrested in and with 75pence in her pocket. Disorientated and distressed, she was simply dumped in Bogota—hundreds of miles from her home town without any concern as to how she could get back to her family.

Another of the nine, Rosa Perez, was deported on Tuesday 30th without being given the 72 hours notice that is required—she had no chance to say goodbye to workmates who had been visiting her in detention or to receive the collections that SOAS staff had been making to help with her return.

One of the nine, Marina Silva, remains in detention at Yarlswood—where detainees are on hunger strikes and other forms of protest because of the appalling conditions and the decision to freeze their bank accounts, which contain all the wages earned at hard jobs like cleaning or fruit picking. Marina, who is 63, has claimed asylum because her husband was murdered in an honour killing at home and she was threatened until she left. Having lost the breadwinner and in fear, Marina eventually came to live and work in the UK a few years ago. She is very frightened in Yarlswood where her detention disrupted medical tests.

They are joined inside by other workers who have been set up in a similar way. In one case at the Picadiily Backpacker hotel in London on June 17, six members of staff were trapped by UKBA on the sixth floor. The five men were taken away and made to sign a document without understanding it. They were then deported without being able to take any possessions, access their money or contact their families. The remaining worker is at Yarls Wood.

ACTION POINTS

1. Please send urgent faxes immediately to Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office asking that Marina Silva is released from detention and given permission to remain in the UK. Please use the “model letter” at
http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/2009/06/send-this-letter-to-home-office-now.html

You can copy/amend this or write your own version. (No Home Office reference numbers but fax anyway).

Fax: 020 8760 3132 / + 44 20 8760 3132 if you are faxing from outside UK)

Emails: Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk

“CIT – Treat Official” CITTO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

2. Ring your MP and express your concern for these individuals and ask them to pass on the message to Alan Johnson. You can get your MPs details from http://www.theyworkforyou.com or ring 020 7219 3000 and ask for their office. Your MP can ask a question about this or can lay down an early day motion.

3. Ask your trade union branch/faith group/community association etc to also take action

Any faxes/E-mails sent to Alan Johnson or to your union branch/faith group/community association:

Please copy to SOAS UNISON, fax: 020 7898 4039. or an2@soas.ac.uk

Picket Report – Alberto Durango

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on Saturday, 4 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

Alberto is a cleaners branch activist in Unite sacked from Schroders Bank by Lancaster cleaning company after a successful campaign against redundancies and for the living wage. He was entrapped by the company and UK Borders Agency – an increasingly common tactic against migrant worker trade unionists. He is also the union rep for the sacked Mitie workers.

I went up yesterday to offer Albert Durango Bristol No Borders’ solidarity and support. I almost missed meeting people outside Canary Wharf  Tube as there seemed to be a bomb scare/fire practice which has all the staff from all the surrounding office building also assembiling outside the tube station. Lehman Bros, Schroders they were all there – we could have done a multiple office occupation – if we had a thousand people for the picket, rather than 30.

previous demo

previous demo

The picket was very noisy, and of course the chants were in both Spainish and English.  I found myself holding a UNITE banner(!) which seemed strange, but it seems UNITE had made it an official picket. Without going into all the detail UNITE’s support of many of the militant cleaners campaigns has been at best ambiguous See Alberto’s article for more details on this – link below).  It’s not clear when he will here the result of his tribunal – the company  now have to launch an “investigation” into his sacking – like they don’t know! Alberto was very bullish –  both about his chances of reinstatement – and building a strong, grassroots union movement. He’s quite an inspiring figure.

There were cleaners at the pickets from many of the city institutions, as well as people from CAIC, Latin American Workers Association and UNISON, Workers Climate Action and Bristol No Borders (me).

Alberto’s article:

No Border Camp Calais

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Friday, 6 March, 2009 by bristolnoborders


At the end of January, two No Borders activists from South Wales joined with others from Bristol, Brighton, London, Leeds and Newcastle to visit Calais and Lille in north-east France to begin organising for the No Border camp that is planned to happen in the region of Calais in late June this year.

Why Calais?

In 2002 an agreement between UK and French governments meant that the Red Cross running Sangatte centre in Calais was shut down. Sangatte had provided shelter for up to 2000 people and since its closure the situation for migrants in the Calais region has reached crisis point. Migrants including large groups from Afghanistan, Eritrea Iraq, Sudan and Palestine gather in Calais before attempting to cross the channel in search of a better life in the UK. Some migrants cross clinging on to the underside of lorries, some attempt to walk the length of the channel tunnel, with considerable risk to their lives. (There is a recent video from france24)

Whilst in Calais, we met with two local humanitarian groups who distribute free food to migrants. There is no state support available to migrants in Calais and it is against the law to help so called ‘illegal’ migrants here, so these volunteers risk arrest daily by simply feeding people. In the wind and rain on a piece of wasteland near the port, we witnessed the Catholic group La Belle Etoile giving packages of bread from a small van to hundreds of queueing migrants.

The same day we visited the kitchens of the SALAM Association, where volunteers prepare hot food for around 500-600 migrants each night, every night and serve from a van behind a warehouse close to the port. That evening, we were shocked by the number of migrants we saw, most were men, at the food distribution point and felt that what we were witnessing in Calais was a humanitarian crisis. Speaking to some of the migrants we learnt how up to 1000 people without status are living in woods near to the ferry port, this being known as ‘the jungle’, all waiting for a chance to travel to the UK in whatever way they can. They told us how police regularly destroy or burn their temporary structures and put tear gas in their tents. They told us how they have been caught by police before and driven to isolated places miles from Calais and left there.

Many of the men we spoke with were from Afghanistan. One had worked for the British Army as a translator and has had to flee his village as the Taliban have threatened him for being a ‘traitor’. Others had family with status in the UK that they were trying to reach. Another Afghani man told us how this wasn’t a choice to be in Calais as there “is no choice” for them; they have not chosen to have to leave their countries but have been forced to.

And the state repression of migrants in Calais looks set to get worse. At the end of January this year during a visit to Calais, the French immigration minister Eric Besson stated that he wants to see an ‘exclusion zone’ for migrants in the region.

no-borders-camp2Activists from both the UK and France have been working together to plan for a no border protest camp in Calais at the end of June this year. There is an organising meeting on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th March in Calais to discuss the political and practical aspects of the camp and its mobilisation. The meeting is open to any individuals or groups who act in solidarity with migrants and their struggle for freedom of movement. No Borders South Wales ( as are Bristol No Borders) will be taking part in the process, if your interested in attending the No Border Camp please get in touch.