By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Demand to open detention centres over coronavirus sickness fears

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Issue 2696
Detention centres must be shut down
Detention centres must be shut down (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Detainee rights organisations have said the Tories should “immediately release all immigration detainees”.

Ten organisations wrote to home secretary Priti Patel after detainees suspected of having coronavirus were put into isolation at Colnbrook immigration removal centre.

Their letter says, “As borders close around the globe and strict travel restrictions are implemented, the removal system is going to become much harder to operate, making increased numbers of removals and detentions unlawful.”

Lionel Shaw, who broke his ankle in three places, knows all about inadequate healthcare inside Harmondsworth immigration detention centre.

He was forced to wait for almost a week before being taken to hospital, as Socialist Worker revealed.

Once he was finally taken to the hospital, Lionel said, “I had to wait to get better from influenza.

“I was ill because of what I caught inside. All the toilets are open and you don’t have chemicals or brushes because they’re afraid you’ll kill yourself.”

Earlier this month a damning report by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons about Morton Hall centre in Lancashire showed alarming cases of self-harm. It found there had been 113 incidents of self-harm over a six-month period at the centre.

Lionel said that there is no way “that environment can be safe” because it’s “like a prison”.

“The guards ask questions if you will self-harm,” he said. “Even if you say yes, nothing is in place.


“A lot of people will hurt themselves because they want to get out. You can see that the majority of people who had been in for a while are not well.

Harmondsworth is a dead place. Inside it’s full of germs, outside you’re breathing plane fuel.”

Lionel said that guards carry knives “in case they have to cut down people” who have tried to hang themselves.

“I know one guy had wrapped a sheet around his neck and when the guard got to him blood was coming out of his eyes,” he said.

“When people go through lots of stuff, they see no way out. I have seen people ­overdosing on pills they’ve saved up.”

He added, “Since I’ve been in there, I don’t like to hear the sound of keys.

“That’s all you hear in the night and in the day when you are in there—and the sound of when they move that thing on the door to see if you’re dead or alive.

“I can’t sleep, that’s true even now when I’m on drugs in hospital.”

Anti-racists have to keep up the fight to stop all deportations and shut down Britain’s immigration detention centres.

Stand Up To Racism marches are called off

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) has postponed national demonstrations in London and Glasgow that were due to take place on Saturday.

A statement from SUTR said, “We have taken the decision to postpone in response to coronavirus and its significant threat to public health.

“The developing crisis has been marked by the government’s failure to take serious action to protect people and its ongoing refusal to combat a growing mood of scapegoating and racism around the issue.

“We reaffirm our commitment to building a mass movement against racism in Britain.”

SUTR planned an online rally this Saturday involving MPs, trade unionists and campaigners.

It is also appealing for money to help fund placards, publicity and PA equipment for the rescheduled demonstrations.

  • Go to World Against Racism online rally: UN Anti-Racism Day on Facebook
  • Donate to SUTR at


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