Listening to the government you may think that ‘illegal’ immigrants threaten the way of life of Britons and endanger the living standards of working people bit it is the old scapegoat blame game. Migrants and political refugees aren’t to blame for a single one of the problems we face in our daily lives. Those crossing borders ‘illegally’ take huge risks to their personal safety and at huge personal cost.
In the UK, there are 11 Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), used to hold migrants and asylum-seekers on arrival, pending a decision on their status. Where applications have been rejected, IRCs also hold them prior to deportation. In the EU, only Greece detains more people in such centres than the UK. More than 30,000 people spent time in them in 2013. Both international and European law stipulate that migrants and asylum seekers should only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. The European Union Returns Directive sets a detention limit for irregular migrants but the UK has opted out of the directive and is the only member state with no time limit on detention.
Several studies have examined the impact of immigration detention on mental health. A review of 10 of these studies by specialists found that they all “reported high levels of mental health problems in detainees. Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were commonly reported, as were self-harm and suicidal ideation. Time in detention was positively associated with severity of distress.”
Detention Action’s Executive Director, Jerome Phelps, points to the significant number of detainees who are being harmed “in lasting ways”. “There is a crisis of mental health in detention,” he told IRIN. On-site doctors are supposed to notify managers as well as the Home Office of such cases, in particular those at risk of suicide and survivors of torture. According to Phelps, these reports are routinely ignored. A 2011 study found that only nine percent of such notifications led to the release of a detainee. A 2010 study by the Jesuit Refugee Service, which interviewed 685 detainees in 23 EU countries, found that “detention brings very negative consequences for detainees’ mental health” and that prolonged detention “compounds the adverse mental health effects”.
Sharif, fled torture in a north African and spent a year in detention centres before being released. He told IRIN that conditions inside were oppressive. “I lost my health in detention, after all this stress and bad feeling,” he said. “A lot of people self-harm. My friend, he cut his neck with a razor…” Four months after his release, Sharif, who suffers from claustrophobia and had to be heavily medicated during his incarceration, still fears being re-arrested and sent back home.
Hassan Seguya, a Ugandan refugee who spent six months in two different immigration detention centres after his initial asylum claim was refused, told IRIN “I felt like I was in prison, but it was worse because you don’t know [the length of] your sentence. I was only waiting to be deported and I thought to die here [in detention] would be better because I knew they’d torture me back home,” said Seguya, who recounted how he spent three years behind bars in Uganda, where he was allegedly beaten and tortured, after being accused of complicity in a coup plot.
Another detainee said he had been held for three years. He said efforts to deport him had failed because he came from a disputed area claimed by both Nigeria and Cameroon and neither state agreed to receive him.
A young woman from Guinea who was detained upon her arrival at Heathrow Airport. During 17 months in a detention centre, she suffered a mental collapse and was frequently isolated or hand-cuffed to prevent her harming herself. In July 2014, the High Court ruled that her detention was unlawful and that her human rights were violated.
Britons should realise that there is an indeed a ‘them’ and ‘us’ conflict, but it’s not about migrants. It’s the employing class versus the working class. Encouraging native workers to blame vulnerable foreigners for the cuts in jobs, working conditions and welfare benefits, our ruler are playing a game of divide and rule. The fault is not of the political asylum seeker. It’s the bosses driving down all peoples living standards. Socialists never forget that an injury to one is an injury to all. Don’t let ‘them’ divide ‘us’.