Socialist Worker

Brutality in Britain’s detention centres exposed

by Tash Shifrin
Issue No. 1941

What goes on behind the fence at deportation camps? (Pic: Cambridgeshire Against Refugee Detention)

What goes on behind the fence at deportation camps? (Pic: Cambridgeshire Against Refugee Detention)

NEW LABOUR and the Tories compete over who can be “toughest” on asylum seekers. This creates a climate which encourages racist and violent staff at detention centres to feel they can act with impunity.

The brutal treatment of asylum seekers held in detention and threatened with deportation is exposed in a BBC documentary which was due to be shown on Wednesday of this week.

The programme, Detention Undercover, exposes racism and brutality in the Oakington detention centre and the immigration escort service, both run by private contractor Global Solutions Ltd (GSL).

It reveals how two detainees were locked in a small van in the company yard for five hours when the escort service failed to take them to Dover.

It shows officers passing round pictures of blood spattered vans where traumatised detainees have deliberately harmed themselves as they face deportation. A supervisor says: “We do illegal things every single day. I mean come on. Staff get away with blue murder.”

The programme reveals the racism of staff at the detention centre. “It’s fucking paki-land in here,” one says. One prison officer is filmed waking detainees by shouting down a tannoy system, blasting them with loud music. He is then seen threatening a particularly vulnerable detainee, Balkar.

“You just don’t want to do it because I’m white. You think you’re not going to do anything ‘cos a white person tells you what to do. Well I’m afraid you’re wrong. My great grandfather shot your great grandfather and nicked his fucking country off you for 200 years,” he tells him.

“Get out of fucking bed before I do you some damage.” The officer then tips Balkar out of bed onto the floor.

Another officer is filmed joking about Balkar: “They’re going to anally introduce the electric probe and if he doesn’t get up he’s going to be plugged into the mains.”

This is the reality behind the “get tough” policy on asylum seekers of Tony Blair and Michael Howard. The “respectable” racism of establishment politicians translates all too easily into racist violence.

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Sat 5 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1941
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