‘My life’s in danger’: UK asylum seeker says his deportation could be fatal
As RT attempts to investigate multiple reports of mistreatment at UK immigrant detention centers, it was contacted by 43-year-old Abbas Haider, an inmate at the Harmondsworth immigrant removal center, who says he is one of around hundred refugees denied asylum and due to be deported to Pakistan on Tuesday.
RT’s Harry Fear, who has been following the situation from outside the center, witnessed two buses with passengers leave the facility overnight.
it’s extremely abusive of human rights and misleading of those powers where they claims that they are a country with human rights #detention
— Detained Voices (@detainedvoices) March 17, 2015
Shortly before that, Haider, who converted from Islam to Christianity and believes he will be persecuted in Pakistan for his faith, spoke to RT by phone.
“If my life was not in danger I would never ever come here,” the man said. “Everything I have seen in the detention center is totally unjust and unfair. My life is in danger. I have to face the society where I will now face radicalism. But I’ll try to make myself safe there. I think this is my last phone call to you and my last words. All I want to say is that I came to this country for justice and to save my life.”
RT saw Haider's immigration case summary. His case was decided under the so-called Detained Fast Track process – which means he was in detention while his case was being determined, and didn't have enough time or resources to support his asylum claim. Eventually, it was denied.
His story appears to be one of many similar ones, as reports of protests and even hunger strikes have been coming in from a number of immigration removal centers (IRC). Inmates reportedly complain of poor healthcare and indefinite detainment at Harmondsworth (Heathrow Airport), Brook House (Gatwick Airport), Pennine House (Manchester), Dover, The Verne, Dungavel (South Lanarkshire), Oxford and Morton Hall (Lincolnshire).
A detainee from Morton Hall, who asked not to be named, told RT he has been in detention for one year. He said the number of hunger strikers at this immigrant removal center was between 10 and 20 people.
There have also been reports that at least 70 people are on a hunger strike in Dungavel, Scotland.
There is a “thick veil of secrecy surrounding these facilities,” RT’s Anastasia Churkina said, reporting from Morton Hall.
Britain's Refugee Council told RT they are not surprised by protests in the UK detention centers, with asylum seekers being “locked up when they have done nothing wrong.” It is calling for the entire system to be abolished.
“Ministers must accept that the cat is out of the bag: immigration detention is inhumane, expensive and inefficient … It’s high time they consigned the whole system to history books where it belongs,” Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council said.
The government is turning a blind eye to reports of hungers strikes at immigration removal centers, says Phil Miller, investigative journalist of Corporate Watch.
“We have not seen any Home Office investigators go in,” Miller told RT. “And I don’t feel they are taking the situation seriously. Britain is deporting people to Sri Lanka, to Afghanistan, countries where torture and extrajudicial killings are widespread. A lot of these people are very much afraid of persecution and it’s just not being taken seriously.”
Tamara Smillie, a public law caseworker at Duncan Lewis is among those who are trying to prevent deportations. She is worried for those who are forced to return to countries, from which they tried to flee.
“We at Duncan Lewis stopped 19 removals to Afghanistan, the other 25 who were removed – we are looking into evidence as to what has happened to them now. I heard reports that lots of them are without any family, are homeless and on the street in Kabul living under bridges with no support,” Smillie said.
Sandra White of the Scottish National Party told RT the UK is the only country in Europe that doesn’t have a cap on how long you can detain people.
“Locking people up for a year or more in what is virtually a prison camp is not the way to treat anyone who is escaping persecution in another country,” White said.
Meanwhile, the UK Home Office responded to an RT inquiry, claiming “detention and removal are essential parts of the effective immigration controls” and that “it is vital these are carried out with dignity and respect.”