A Letter to Harmondsworth

by

posting a letter

This piece was written by Shariff, a participant on our Freed Voices self-advocacy project, and was originally published as a blog as part of the Unlocking Detention twitter-tour.

 

Dear Harmondsworth IRC,

I know you are very busy at the moment but I have a few questions about the three months you held me in detention.

Why do the rooms in Harmondsworth feel like you are living in a coffin? Do you do this on purpose?

If Harmondsworth is not a prison, why does it look like a prison? Why does it smell like a prison? Why do the guards treat you like a prisoner?

Why were people allowed to work in Harmondsworth but outside detention we are not allowed to work?

Why do you have a department called ‘Healthcare’ when it does not offer ‘health-care’?

You lost all my medicine and my individual case-file – where did they go? Did someone steal them? Is there a black hole somewhere in Harmondsworth?

Do you have anything else in healthcare other than paracetemol?

If someone has vomiting, or someone has a broken leg, or someone cannot sleep – do you really think that paracetemol is the answer in every situation?

Are your healthcare staff trained and qualified?

I went to get a Rule 35 from your doctor. He said “ok, what do you want me to put?” I said, “you are the doctor, you need to say what is wrong with me.” He said, “If I do that we’ll be here for three, four hours.” In the end, he wrote something very quickly. In court, the judge didn’t even look at it. Can you tell me – what is the point of Rule 35 if this is the kind of doctor you employ to do it? What is it really worth?

Why do you not bring in doctors from outside? Have you ever been seen by a NHS doctor? Can you tell the difference?

Why did no-one in Harmondsworth try to help me understand the asylum process? Why did no-one even tell me I was on the Detained Fast Track? Do you give your staff orders to confuse us on purpose? Or maybe they just don’t know anything about the immigration system either?

What is the Detained Fast Track for? What is the honest reason for it? Is it just to deport people? Has it got anything to do with a fair trial? What do you think the Detained Fast Track says about the British justice system? If you are going to reject 99% of cases, why even put us through the stress of the system?

I got five minutes with my solicitor before my asylum interview – do you think this is enough time to prepare for the most important interview of your life?

Superman could not prove his innocence on an appeal in just two days, from the inside of a cell – why not blindfold us and give us two hours?

Do you think ‘North Africa’ is one country? Do you think an Algerian interpreter can effectively translate for an Egyptian, like me?

I saw people cut their own necks and swallow razor blades in Harmondsworth – if detention is designed to make us suffer so we agree to go home, do you consider this as a success?

Once in detention, I was feeling bad in my cell and I banged the door to ask for help. Four or five men arrived, acting like they were all Jean Claude van Damme. They shoved me to the floor, handcuffed me and took me to isolation. They kept me there for two days. They said my ‘behavior’ was the problem. Do you train your staff to be violent and aggressive?

Do you think that when I left Harmondsworth, Harmondsworth left me? I think about you guys every day.

I look forward to hearing your answers.

Yours sincerely,

Shariff.