Over the last few days, I got a few emails about the events in Harmondsworth. You probably know the facts - Bereket Yohannes from Eritrea was found hanged at Harmondsworth detention center, the other detainees were very distressed, had a meeting the next day, refused to take food, wrote a statement. Now many of them are put in solitary confinement or sent to other detention centers as "troublemakers".
Here are some quotes from supporters who visit detainees regularly. The urgency of those mails and calls shows that detention affects first of all the detainees. But it also affects those who support them. And those who write about them. Even this is a reason to say: No one is illegal! No Borders!
What you can do to helpEmail from someone who visits detainees, 25 jan 2006, 20:38
Over the past few months myself and a couple of friends have been providing support by visiting immigration detainees in Harmondsworth and other Detention Centers. Some of you will have heard of Harmondsworth, having participated in demos together with Rhythms of Resistance.
The email below is about the current desperate situation at Harmondsworth and what you can do to help.....
Last Thursday 19th of January, at around 5.25pm, Bereket Yohannes, a 26 years old man from from Eritrea was found hanged in the showers at Harmondsworth Detention Centre.
Bereket had arrived in UK from Italy last October and was detained in Dover, he was then moved to Harmondsworth in December. Bereket was told that he was due to be deported to Italy in February but the flight had already been cancelled because a Judicial Review has been lodged.
Obviously Bereket's apparent suicide had a major impact on the other detainees. In particular the staff refusal to allow some detainee to visit the chapel (which must be booked 24hrs in advance) was especially distressing for some. The detainees en mass refused food and demanded to see senior management. A list of complaints was drawn up to which 61 Detainee signed their names.
A manager from UK Detention Services (UKDS -the company that runs Harmondsworth) came down to see the men - he more of less fobbed them off by saying that everything was down to the Home Office (which is not really true).
Then on Friday, UKDS took action to crush the mens demands - many detainees involved in the protest were locked up in "Secure", a form of solitary confinement, some of them roughed up by security guards, whilst others were shipped out of Harmondsworth altogether. One guy, who UKDS identified as an organiser, was subjected to an illegal attempted deportation last night. Although he has a court case pending, he was booked on a flight to ... and taken to Heathrow airport. Only a last minute mobilization of the detainees support network managed to stop this illegal action by UKDS and the Home Office. This man was not returned to Harmondsworth but is now in Colnsbrook Removals Centre.
The situation remains tense. Here's what you can do to show support and help.
1. Come to the Vigil in memory of Bereket Yohannes this Sunday, 29th January, in Harmondsworth.
2. Can you visit a detainee in Harmondsworth or Colnbrook after the vigil? If yes you will need photo ID + proof of address (2 items, utility bills!). I intend to visit people in both of these Detention Centers after the vigil. You will also need the name of the detainee you want to visit. If you are interested in visiting - let me know and I can give contact details of people inside and try and answer any question you might have.
Love, rage and solidarity
Find out who they are and where they are
Email from someone who visits detainees, 26 jan 2005, 15:20
...AND ALSO PEOPLE TO MAKE PHONE CALLS AND FIND OUT WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW THEY ARE.
As you certainly know, a number of Harmondsworth detainees, who formed a committee after the suicide of Beretek Yohannes and signed a letter of grievances, have been put in isolation or moved to other centres - 2 to Dungavel, others to Colnbrook short term, where they remain in solitary confinement. It is really difficult to follow up as they are prevented from communicating with other detainees and with the outside world, apart from sporadic phone calls and short visits.
I went to Harmandsworth and Conbrook yesterday. Please contact me asap if you can help, I can provide a very incomplete list of names, but by phoning and visiting we'll be able to find out more names and more details. It is very hard to be locked up 24/24 without being able to talk to nobody.
After the vigil on Sunday we go visiting, and some doctors will go visiting people with health problems, but before Sunday we need to find out more about the missing Harmondsworth detainees, and give them support.
Find out who they are and where they are
Email from someone who visits detainees, 26 jan, 14:47
This is about all I could find. The man who is coughing blood is "A", it is uncertain where he is. He was taken to the secure unit in Harmondsworth on Saturday, after allegedly threatening an officier. The other committe members for the Harmonsworth detainees got upset and asked to see a manager. They asked to know what happened to "A". The manager allowed them to phone "A". On Monday "B" and "C" were woken, taken to C wing, they saw 20 officers in one room and realised they were in trouble. They called "C" and locked him up, than they called "B" and told him 'we believe you were involved in Saturday indiscipline'. He was then taken to the secure unit, where he remains in solitary confinement, cannot go out his room and talk to no-one, and was only allowed a short visit yesterday.
I wish to underline the detainees' protest was thoroughly peaceful, the committee members had a key role in defusing tension and stopping other detainees from taking more drastic and desperate forms of action. "C" is what could be called a 'model detainee', never had a diciplinary note in 10 months he's been detained.
(I am also in contact with a man from ... detained in Harmondsworth for 7 months. He applied for asylum in ***, has kept asking Immigration to send him to *** but they keep replying they want to send him to .... He is not involved with the detainees' protest.)
If a doctor can go visiting, "E" was badly beaten at airport the 16th of January, resulting in deep cuts on the right wrist and almost total loss of feeling in the right hand. "E" is from ... and he is not involved with the detainees' protest. He has no solicitor but I'm trying to find him one for civil case.
he's back from the airport and in x-detention center. Thanks heavens.
put together from several emails and phonecalls
"A man called "D" tried to commit suicide one day after Beretek Yohannes. According to the information I had from other detainees, he was detained x months in Harmondsworth. He is from ... and applied for asylum in ***, he has a family there. He asked Immigration to be brought back to *** and gave them documents, but they kept insisting they want to remove him to ..."
A flight was booked to deport "D" last week. It would be illegal to deport him, because is courtcase is pending. Meanwhile, the detainees support network sent faxes, made phonecalls, sent emails.
"We alerted his lawyer, MPs, the airline, the homeoffice, everything".
"People went to the airport tuesday night because they knew that this guy was going to be deported."
The deportation was cancelled:
""D" just called me he's back from the airport and in x-detention center. Thanks heavens. You can use the fax as a model for some other deportation,or just read it for your information."
PS: I've removed names and locations and slightly edited the mails.