Socialist Worker

‘Locked in a detention centre, I work for £1 an hour’

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2693

otest against charter flight deportations at the start of February

Protest against charter flight deportations at the start of February (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tories have handed Serco a multimillion pound contract to run a further two immigration detention centres.

The Home Office gave Serco a £200 million grant to run Brooke House and Tinsey House near London Gatwick Airport. The outsourcing giant has been plagued by allegations of abuse—including sexual harassment—towards people held at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre.

Tory immigration minister Kevin Foster said the Serco contract would “significantly improve the day-to-day lives of detainees and the staff who support them”.

Detainee Kemar knows the brutality of the detention and deportation business.

“There’s a very poor quality of life inside, but the people at the top don’t listen to our complaints,” he told Socialist Worker.

He has been detained at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook immigration detention centres, near London Heathrow Airport, for eight months.

The complex has been run by leading profiteer Mitie on an £180 million eight-year contract since 2014.

Rules

Kemar explained that detainees have to work for as little as £1 an hour to get by. “You’re not allowed to work outside because of the Home Office’s rules, but inside you can only get £1 an hour,” he said.

“It includes cleaning, serving and painting over any graffiti and maintaining the detention centre. Sometimes you could be working for six hours.”

The High Court ruled in March 2018 that it was legal to pay people £1 an hour inside detention centres.

The judge said the rate of pay was acceptable because the aim of the work is “to provide meaningful activity and alleviate boredom”.

Kemar said that detainees felt forced into work because of poor living conditions inside detention centres. “If you have family on the outside, they can support you with money,” he said.

“But even if you do have family, they don’t always have money. You get toothpaste, brush and soap, but it’s the cheapest and poorest quality so we have to buy our own”.

“Everything is so expensive in here.” Christopher, another detainee at Harmondsworth, told Socialist Worker, “This is disgusting and I said I’m not doing it.”

“I’ve been through all that as a child.”

After Christopher’s father died when he was seven, he was forced to work for free and physically abused.

He was one of those who was almost deported on the charter flight to Jamaica at the beginning of the month.

Christopher remains locked up in brutal conditions—with the threat of deportation hanging over his head. Anti-racists must campaign to stop deportations and shut down immigration detention centres.


Fight to bring back those deported and detained

Anti-racists are fighting to bring back people who were deported to Jamaica—and to stop the threat of further charter flights.

Margaret, whose partner Christopher is locked up in Harmondsworth detention centre, has been spreading the message across south London.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) has organised to get her into workplaces and union branches, and organised petitioning on the streets.

Dosh for deportations—how private firms cash in
Dosh for deportations—how private firms cash in
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Christopher’s deportation was blocked by a last minute court order on 10 February.

But he could still be removed at any time.Margaret fears for his wellbeing while he remains inside Harmondsworth detention centre.

“When I called him last Saturday, I could tell that he was really down,” she told Socialist Worker. “He said that he would hurt himself.

“When I finally got through, the person went to look and said his arms were all burnt.

“I was told his mental health problems weren’t recorded in the book.

“The Home Office has statements from the GP about Christopher’s mental health, but they’re telling me they didn’t know.”

She added, “The most important thing is to get him out and make sure he can’t do any more harm to himself.”

The SUTR Tower Hamlets group has been petitioning on the streets of east London alongside Jana.

Her disabled partner Rayan Crawford was deported to Jamaica at the beginning of the month.

Support Rayan and Christopher at bit.ly/BringRayanHome and bit.ly/DonatetoChristopher

Tory points plan revealed

Home secretary Priti Patel and the Tories have unveiled a plan for a “points-based” immigration system.

Migrants would have to score 70 points to be able to work in Britain.

They would need to have the offer of a ‘skilled job’ and the ability to speak English, to gain 50 points.

Having qualifications would also gain points.

This creates a false distinction between “high” and “low skilled migrants”.

Those deemed to be “low skilled” could be brought in on temporary visas, but would have few rights once in Britain.

The rules, which would come into force next year, are set to be outlined in an Immigration Bill in March.

Anti-racists should fight to defeat the bill. and defend and extend free movement.


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