Resistance against detention continues at Morton Hall


On 27 May Nottingham Revolutionary Communist Group returned to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Lincolnshire as part of the Shut Down Morton Hall Campaign (SDMH). Marching with us were two former detainees. One man, Nariman Jalal Karim, was inside last time we visited (see FRFI 256). He spoke out and was victimised by being moved 200 miles away. Campaigners made sure to follow his case and have heard stories of the abuse he suffered in detention, including being restrained by having three guards sit on his chest, causing him to cough up blood, and guards deliberately turning fellow detainees against him by blaming him for an outbreak of bedbugs.

Campaigners marched despite the rain, kicking the reinforced fence and chanting on the megaphone. It did not take long for our voices to be joined from across the fence by those inside. Nariman scaled a tree that overlooked the compound. A camera phone was passed up to him with which he was able to take a clear shot of the gathering detainees inside the prison. He was then thrown up a megaphone to address those inside. They called back over the fence, describing how they are treated like animals and brutalised by the guards. The other ex-detainee joined with another megaphone, saying: ‘Refuse to be treated like animals! You are not criminals! Don’t Give up!’

Since December 2016 there have been two deaths in Morton Hall. On 6 December 2016 49-year-old Bai Ahmed Kabia fell down in his room, foaming at the mouth. Four hours after nurses were called, he was taken to hospital where he died. He had been detained for over three years. On 11 January, Lukasz Debowksi, a 27-year-old Polish man, killed himself. Just before Christmas he had been refused bail because his partner, who was heavily pregnant, could not get to the hearing to confirm that she would stand surety for him. She gave birth to their son on the day that Lukasz took his own life. A prisons inspectorate report, released on 21 March, stated that incidents of self-harm had nearly tripled since the previous report in 2013. Alongside increasing repression, there has been a rising tide of resistance.

On the day, a phone was hooked up to a mobile sound system so that campaigners could communicate with those inside. Detainees explained how depression and mental health issues were rampant and how on 15 May two of the detainees, reportedly an Algerian and an Egyptian, managed to get on the roof to protest against not being held indefinitely. It is unclear how the situation ended but they eventually came down; though a ‘tornado squad’ ready on site at the time and the centre was on lock-down. SDMH members had demanded that Morton Hall authorities inform us about what was going on. These demands were ignored and the national media has refused to report this latest episode in a history of violence against detainees in Britain.

Protesters also heard how authorities shifted the burden of responsibility for deaths in detention by signing the necessary paperwork for the release of dying inmates so that the death would fall under the jurisdiction of the National Health Service. One detainee told us how his attempts to acquire the necessary paperwork to return to his own country were repeatedly hampered by the prison authorities. Another told us how he had been arrested and brought there indefinitely and how he wanted to be reunited with his wife and children – all British nationals.

One of the former detainees spoke over the phone telling those inside how they must refuse to work within the detention centre, where they are paid just £1 an hour. He said that they must all stand together and that only by being a thorn in the side of their oppressors and by being more troublesome than it is worth to keep them locked up would they be granted their freedom.

Resistance to Britain’s racist immigration laws is on the rise. That resistance demands our solidarity.