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News from Close Down Harmondsworth Campaign

NCADC | 27.06.2002 08:58

Full-scale prison regime to be introduced for asylum seekers

In light of the events at Yarl's Wood sprinklers are going to be installed over the summer. There will be substantial building work and Harmondsworth will be emptied by 50% for several months.

Internal security gates are also going to be installed so that detainees won't be free to wander round the centre and engage in free association, one of the few pleasures they have. They will be held on designated wings and will have to be escorted to education, recreation and healthcare. It has been stated that more staff will be employed to cope with this and a tannoy may be installed. However,
considering the current lack of staff, which results in very long waiting times for visitors, one visitor recently waited four hours, it is doubtful if anything will improve.

The regime will change too, for the worse. At the moment there are "standard" and "enhanced" regimes. The difference between these will be broadened with a possible curtailment of visiting hours for those on "standard" regime. A demotion to "standard" regime will be used as a punishment. Of the new wings, one will be for people with removal
directions and one will be for 'long-termers'. So much for the government's assertion that people are only held pending removal.

The Home Office Contract Monitor plans a meeting with the groups which visit Harmondsworth to explain the changes when they are finally decided and to ask for opinions, but wouldn't say whether these changes are because of demands from the centre's insurers, or when the insurance is up for renewal.

He has also stated that, post-Yarl's Wood, there is a policy of separating large groups of people of the same nationality, or groups who are 'disruptive'. He said that centres don't make this decision, this resides with the Home Office, although they can make representations to him about who they would like to be moved and he can pass them on, Immigration outside the centre decide.

The Contract Monitor also commented on the reporting of people whose health would be injuriously affected by continued detention, just about all of them I would have thought. He said healthcare staff were aware of their responsibility in this area, although that is very much open to doubt, but the definition appears ungenerous as this procedure has only been used once to release someone. Also it is still not clear when a resident psychiatrist will be employed, so who is going to make the assessments. He said people are welcome to get their own medicals done, but didn't explain how this could be achieved. There
are constant complaints about a perceived lack of proper medical care.

In addition it was said that women more than 7 months pregnant would not be detained because commercial airlines will not carry them. Presumably if they can persuade the airlines to carry them these women will also be locked up. There has been a report of a pregnant woman with an eleven month old child being held. In cases where aircraft are chartered and there are medical personnel on board (usually in the case of Eastern European countries)women over 7 months pregnant may be detained.

It has also been reported that Immigration Officers in the centre have the responsibility to complete NASS forms for accommodation for people with imminent bail hearings. The Contract Monitor said they are aware of their responsibility and have the forms in the centre, but considering their lack of sympathy with detainees one wonders how diligent they will be.

Work has started on a new centre adjacent to the existing one. The contract has not yet been awarded but it is planned to be based on a prison design with galleried units and will hold about 400. It is intended that the most 'disruptive' people in the detention estate will be held there. It's going to be called IDC Longford.

We must step up the campaign to close these centres and end this abuse of human rights!

Ray Barkley
Close Down Harmondsworth Campaign

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Display the following 7 comments

  1. not before time — taxpayer
  2. dear taxpayer — also a taxpayer
  3. Keep Harmondsworth! — In the know.....
  4. cage everybody! — Clampdown Kim
  5. Arms Trade — steelgate
  6. Good point — Thomas J
  7. too right — Thomas J