Socialist Worker

‘No human should have to live like this’—Harmondsworth detainee speaks out

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2694

A protest against deportation flights in London

A protest against deportation flights in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A partially-blind man who has lived, studied and worked in Britain since the age of 15 fears he could be deported to Jamaica.

Lionel, a resident of Croydon in south London, told Socialist Worker that “they don’t tell you anything”, but is worried he could be put on a deportation flight at any time. “You’ll be classed as a deportee in Jamaica,” he said. “You won’t get a job, people will turn away from you on the street.

“A lot of people will die.”

Lionel has been locked up Harmondsworth immigration detention centre, near London Heathrow Airport, since 8 February. “I came in here a normal person and now I can’t sleep,” he said.

“No human should have to live like this.”

His case is a chilling reminder of the Windrush scandal of 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people who came from Britain’s former Caribbean and Asian colonies after 1945 and their descendants faced deportation or the loss of livelihood.

As a result of the Immigration Act 2014, many people who had lived in Britain for decades found they didn’t have the right documents.

The Tories restarted deportation flights at the beginning of the month. Boris Johnson has tried to justify the charter flight by claiming that the people are “serious criminals”. There should be no deportations, regardless of whether a person has served a prison sentence.

But Lionel says he has “no criminal record” and has “never been in a prison”. “When I came to Britain in 2002, I was on holiday and decided to stay with my aunt,” he explained.

Rejected

“I was in college until around 2005 or 2006 and I had a national insurance number and worked. When I finished college I applied for a visa, but it was rejected and the law says that ‘illegals’ cannot work.”

Lionel has to sign on with the Home Office and was placed into detention centres twice in 2010 and 2011. “They don’t have to give you a reason,” he said. 

Lionel described being held in “dirty and nasty” conditions in Harmondsworth. When he spoke to Socialist Worker, Lionel had been waiting for three days to see medical staff for a swollen ankle.

“I slipped on the floor when they were inspecting the cells on Monday.”

Lionel says the security guards initially called an ambulance, but then “called it off because they said my ankle wasn’t broken”. “I have been in my cell,” he said. “I can only lie in one position in bed.

“I have to pee into a bottle.”

The threat to deport Lionel gives a glimpse of Britain’s vicious migration regime.

Anti-racists have to fight to stop all deportations and shut all detention centres. The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) national demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 21 March are an opportunity to build opposition to the Tories’ racism.


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