Across the UK people are being detained under immigration powers in inhumane conditions. In November 2022 in the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre people were locked in cells for 3 days with no heat, light, running water, toilet facilities or hot food due to a power outage.
From the accounts of our clients, their family members, and those who came forward in the media it is clear the distress, anxiety and suffering caused was immense. One such account came from the sister of our client, Anna*. Anna’s testimony lays bare the inhuman treatment her brother was subject to.
During the power cut at Harmondsworth IRC my brother was subjected to standing outside in the dark courtyard for about four hours, from 8pm until around 12am. The doors were locked, no guards supervised or checked on them for long lengths of time and they could not use the toilet.
There were no hot drinks provided for the duration of the time outside. My brother told me there were old men outside who were really cold. Some of the detainees started a little campfire in order to keep warm. I was on the phone to him a number of times, he was updating me that they were still outside and that he was still cold.
The media report suggests that people were rioting outside which is absolute nonsense, the people that were outside were forced to stay there. I was on my phone to my brother on quite a few occasions and there was no rioting. I could hear people talking, trying to keep warm by the fire that they had created to keep themselves warm. The old men were sitting by the fire to keep themselves warm.
When my brother was let back in there was still no electricity, he had to stay locked in his room in the dark and use his phone as a light, no candles were provided. They were locked inand were only checked on when it was breakfast, lunch or dinner time.
My brother became very distressed, a lot of detainees spent a considerate amount of time banging against the walls which added my brother’s mental health issues and made him feel extremely stressed out and anxious.
He called out several times for help about his mental health and no one came. He was really distressed. I could hear people banging on the walls and on the doors for attention through the phone. They were being ignored.
I had to call the next day and ask the office for someone to check on him. I was first told that he should ring the buzzer but the buzzer does not work in his room. I let them know that this is the case, they then sent someone round.
My brother was also told on Sunday morning that everyone should pack and they will be moved, no further information was given, they were not told where they will be moved to.
I called the office to clarify this and they said that due to the power cut they have to move everyone, even though most of their services are back up. Sunday evening my brothers phone was off. I became very concerned and called the office and I was then told that they had moved everybody on this wing. They could not give me further information as to where he’d been moved to and told me to wait for his call. My brother’s phone then came on and I managed to get hold of him. He had informed me that he’s been moved to another place near Gatwick called Brook House immigration removal centre.
As you can imagine, all of this is just added to my brothers distress and he has told me that he would like to find out how he can proceed with legal action against immigration services and how things have been handled.
There has been a lot of injustice in my brothers’ case. On top of being illegally and unlawfully detained for no reason since May and having that covered up by services, he has had to endure this power cut and the inhumane way people were treated during it.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of our client