Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A second detainee threatens to jump from detention centre rooftop

(Published in the Guardian Northerner on 25th July 2012)

Long delays in asylum cases and conditions at Morton Hall in Lincolnshire prompt unrest, according to detainees and the centre's visitor group 


Entrance to Morton Hall Detention Centre

A Malaysian man is the second detainee in less than 24 hours to protest against the 'harsh' treatment of detainees at Morton Hall detention centre in Swinderby, Lincolnshire.

He climbed the nine-meter high Fry building at 11.30am yesterday morning, Tuesday 24 July, and refused to come down even though temperatures reached around 29°C in Lincolnshire.

The Malaysian said he was protesting at the injustice in this country and could be heard shouting for water and saying that he thought he was going to faint. He said the officers refused to bring him water and he threatened to jump off the roof in frustration at the way they were treating him. He said in a telephone call from the rooftop:

They're not human, how can they treat me like this. There is no point anymore.

A UK Border Agency (UKBA) statement said that they sent trained staff to negotiate with the detainee and that they convinced him to come down shortly after 5pm yesterday afternoon. The UKBA said he was placed in a separate unit at Morton Hall where staff could talk to him.

The Malaysian is allegedly only one of a group of detainees who have threatened to climb the buildings of Morton Hall in protest at the 'disrespect' and 'inhumane' treatment they claim to be experiencing.

One of the rooftops of a building inside Morton Hall

The protest began on Monday night, when a Palestinian detainee climbed onto the roof of the Library building at Morton Hall at 5pm and refused to come down.

Detainees said they woke up yesterday morning to find that the Palestinian had disappeared from the roof of the building. A UKBA spokesperson said that the Palestinian was talked down during the early hours of Tuesday morning and is safe and well.

The Palestinian, around 25 years old, climbed on to the roof in protest at being detained for eighteen months. He had recently been unsuccessful in a bail application and had been on hunger strike for a couple of days.

Morton Hall, previously a female prison, is surrounded by 5m high razor wired fences

An Iraqi Kurdish detainee at Morton Hall, who helped to translate for the Palestinian, said:

People are generally angry with the UKBA, they are fed up with the removal policy.

In an interview yesterday, he said that he couldn't believe how bad the situation was for many of the detainees.

Some people are in a really bad situation here, they have been here for years, but they are innocent, they haven't done anything wrong.

The Iraqi Kurd said that there is an atmosphere of revolt in the detention centre, with many detainees planning to climb to the roofs of the buildings. He said that around six detainees had been taken to prison for protesting and that staff had subsequently locked detainees in their rooms.

Geoamey, a prisoner escort service, removes detainees from Morton Hall

Nottingham Indymedia has reported that many of the detainees are protesting because of the centre's disrespect of their Muslim faith during Ramadan. They published a statement by the detainees who say they are on strike:

Sir we are here in detention centre Morton Hall. We are with fasting in the last four days but management not supply proper food for it. We demand proper food at the proper time. Today they don't give food at all and guys are on the roof. We are on strike. Why they don't treat us as human?

Dave Hewitt from Morton Hall Visitors Group said:

We fully support the detainees inside the detention prison Morton Hall in their hunger strike and protests. Having to live under the intolerable conditions they are forced into, often for years on end, being moved around the country from one detention prison to another, in many cases having no contact with the outside world, it's no surprise they have had enough. We will continue to support those detained in any way we can whilst doing all we can to end the inhumane system that puts them there.

A UKBA spokesperson said:

A one man protest at Morton Hall in which a detainee scaled the roof of the centre has been resolved. The man is safe and well.

The identities of the detainees have been withheld for their protection.

Photographs by 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Palestinian detainee threatens suicide whilst staging a protest on detention centre roof

Morton Hall detention centre, which is surreounded by 5m high razor wired fence

A Palestinian detainee has allegedly been on the roof of the Library building at Morton Hall Immigration Removal centre in Lincolnshire since 5pm this evening.

An Iraqi Kurdish detainee who came to the UK after living as a refugee in Germany during the first Gulf War, said that the Palestinian was around 25 years old and that he climbed onto the roof in protest at being detained for eighteen months.

The Iraqi Kurd said that the Palestinian had recently been unsuccessful in a bail application and that he had been on hunger strike for a couple of days. He said that two or three detainees tried to help each other climb up to the roof, but that the Palestinian was the only one who managed to climb onto the roof.

He described how there were a lot of detainees standing outside watching and shouting and that some of them refused to go back to their rooms. “The detention centre was out of control for a while, but eventually people started going back to their rooms.”

“People are generally angry with the UK Border Agency (UKBA), they are fed up with the removal policy.” The Iraqi Kurd said that the detention guards asked the Palestinian to come down from the roof but he threatened to jump off every time they came near.

“He wants to kill himself now, if anybody comes near he wants to jump. He’s standing on the roof and he wants to jump soon, if anyone comes near him” The Iraqi Kurd, who has been in Morton Hall for two months, said he helped to translate for the Palestinian a couple of times.

He expressed shock at the things he had seen since being at Morton Hall Immigration centre:

England is a country that says it believes in human rights, but not in this detention centre. They need help somehow, all the cases I have seen, some really sad stories, people who are here for no reason, they haven’t committed any crimes, they are in detention for nothing.

He believes that this is the beginning of a revolt in the detention centre, “There will be more, I can see how people are reacting to the situation, there is tension amongst the groups who have been here for a long time.”

Having lived in the UK for twelve years, The Iraqi Kurd claims that after he was given temporary leave to remain, the UKBA delayed granting him indefinite leave to remain for five years and then detained him.

“They are trying to deport me to Iraq, even though I spent my childhood growing up as a European.” The Iraqi Kurd fled Iraq with his family during the first Gulf War, when the Kurdish population suffered an 'ethnic cleansing' campaign by Saddam Hussein's regime. He arrived in Germany with his family when he was ten years old. He is now waiting for a response from the European Court of Human Rights, and hopes to be able to return to Germany.

The Iraqi Kurd believes that the Palestinian is not the only detainee who will revolt. He said there are ten or fifteen detainees currently on hunger strike and that one has tried to kill himself through self harm. “Something is going to happen soon, because there is no help from outside at all and if we ask for help the guards say it is not their problem.”

The Palestinian will stay there all night and he will eventually jump and there are others like him, there are over one hundred of them who want to do something like this

The identities of the detainees have been withheld for their protection.

Photograph by 

Double documentary screening explores asylum in the UK

Trailer for Hamedullah: The Road Home

An anti-deportation campaign group is hosting a documentary screening on detention and deportation in the light of recent news that G4S security guards will not face charges for the death of Angolan refugee Jimmy Mubenga, who collapsed while being escorted on a flight from Heathrow airport in London.

The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCDAC), who will host the free event this Tuesday 24 July at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in East London, laments the decision not to bring a charge of corporate manslaughter on the private security firm and believes that accountability for the insitutionalised abuse of those seeking sanctuary in the UK seems further away than ever.

Lisa Matthews of NCDAC said, “This incident is just one of many examples of the detention and deportation machines being used to silence the voice of migrants, divide communities and try and make us forget that asylum seekers and other migrants are individuals with human stories to tell.”

Outside an Immigration Removal Centre
NCDAC will screen two documentaries; Hamedullah: The Road Home and How Long is Indefinite?, which both claim to highlight injustices of the asylum and immigration systems. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion with the directors of the documentaries, young people from Afghanistan, ex-detainees, Lisa Matthews of NCDAC and Kate Blagojevic of Detention Action.

Hamedullah: The Road Home, which won Best Short Documentary at the London Independent Film Festival, tells the story of a young Afghan who claims asylum in the UK, and his struggle to cope after being deported on a 'ghost' charter flight back to Afghanistan.

UK film director and screenwriter Sue Clayton filmed Hamedullah and his friends up to the day he was deported. Clayton gave Hamedullah a small video camera when he was deported, hoping to find out whether he would survive in Afghanistan.
Hamedullah in Afghanistan
Clayton has made over 20 award-winning films for BBC and Channel 4, including The Disappearance of Finbar with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. “A lot of my films are about people who go on journeys, and what people are looking for in their lives and how they change. Are they running to something or from something and who do they become when they go on a journey?
“I thought about these unaccompanied children; who do they grow up to be, do they feel Afghan, do they feel British? So my real inspiration wasn’t even the political side at first, it was more about how you put your identity together every morning, what makes you you, is it your friends, your music, do you really cling onto your family and your past or do you have to let that go? So it was a sort of emotional interest in how they keep themselves going, because a lot of them are very positive, so how do they face each day with all that difficulty behind them?”

How Long is Indefinite?, directed and produced by Alexis L Wood, claims to be the first documentary to expose detention without a time limit being exercised on thousands of immigrants in Britain every day.
Reconstruction of a detention centre from How Long Is Indefinite?
The film follows the lives of three people caught in immigration limbo and detained for almost four years between them. They cannot be removed from the UK, yet they remain detained in prison at an average cost of £40,150 each, per year to the taxpayer.
Wood, assistant producer at DocHouse in London, said she made this documentary because she wanted to represent the main issues leading to detainees caught in detention limbo.
Aissata, one of the characters in How Long Is Indefinite?
“I made a film for people to actually see the faces, the families and the lives of people detained which is so easy to forget when we are given statistics of people removed, told that they are illegal and without rights. In fact the case is not so simple and many are never removed from the country but held in detention indefinitely.
“The longest case we know about is someone being detained for 8 years. Many are held for several years wondering each day if they will ever be released or be removed to a regime in which they fear for their lives. I want my film to make people empathise with the people in this situation and realise that it is happening to thousands of people every day.” 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Political asylum seeker fears torture and detention if deported

(As published in the Guardian Northerner 15 July 2012)

Sheffield journalist married local charity worker two years ago, but must return to apply for spouse's visa in Cameroon where he faces persecution.


An emergency protest has been held outside Sheffield Town Hall in support of Bernard Mboueyeu, who fears persecution and jail if he is deported to Cameroon first thing tomorrow, Monday 16 July.
Mboueyeu, who is currently being detained at Pennine House in Manchester, was arrested by the UK Border Agency on Tuesday morning. This is the second time he has been held, after being released and allowed to return to Sheffield just six weeks ago.
Mboueyeu fled his homeland of Cameroon in 2007 after he was allegedly beaten up and tortured by the ruling regime for supporting opposition groups. The treatment followed his arrest by President Paul Biya's security forces for taking photographs of students being attacked during protests in 2006. Biya has been in power since 1982.
Supporters say that the journalist, who was working for a newspaper in southern Cameroon at the time, was stripped naked, beaten up and kept in jail for forty days. Mboueyeu's wife Sharon, who lives in Wincobank, Sheffield, said:
They cut his feet with machetes - he's still got the scars on his legs.
Bernard and Sharon Mboueyeu

Mboueyeu married charity worker Sharon in 2010 but the Home Office is insisting that he returns to Cameroon to apply for a spouse's visa. His supporters say that if he is returned as planned early tomorrow morning, he could be arrested, face torture, or be locked up indefinitely.
Bernard and Sharon getting married in 2010

Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield's Liberal Democrat Leader, who was at the Town Hall protest, said:
Mboueyeu has offered to return voluntarily to Cameroon if the Home Office guarantees his safety but the Home Office have refused to make that guarantee.
We think Bernard's safety is at grave risk, if not his life. All because a bureaucrat would like a piece of paper to be sent from a foreign country.
Commenting on a 2009 Amnesty Report on Cameroon, Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa said:
Cameroon has a horrendous record of gross human rights violations, including torture and killings, against dissidents and members of opposition. Political opposition is not tolerated in Cameroon. Any dissent is suppressed through either violence or abuse of the legal system to silence critics.
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said:
Our rules are very clear, when someone has no right to be in the UK we expect them to leave voluntarily. If they fail to do so, we will seek to remove them.
Cllr Mohammed said that whilst in Sheffield, Bernard was making a great contribution to the city. 
He volunteered with the Royal Society for the Blind and another charity called Aspire. Two years ago, when the devastating floods hit Pakistan, one of the first people outside the Town Hall was Bernard. He helped to highlight the plight and to raise thousands of pounds.
Bernard Mboueyeu with his grandchildren
Bernard’s wife Sharon said:
He’s my husband, he’s a step-dad, he’s a granddad and its so annoying that they’re quite happy to take him away from us and not allow him to have a family life.