Thursday, 3 August 2017

Guilty until proven Innocent – my detention experience

A personal Account by Olive Ruzvidzo

A loud bang on the door during a raid ….a sudden deprivation of liberty at a reporting centre…..DETENTION.

Unless you’ve experienced this, you’ll never really know the true face of UK Immigration.
For me, detention presented confusion, fear and anxiety. It opened a psychological wound which will take a long time to heal.

One minute I was an upstanding individual in a community that I was trying to adjust to; waiting for the response from what I thought was a mutually satisfactory dialogue between myself and the Home Office…. the next minute I was an “illegal immigrant” with a prisoner number and no rights!

The interrogation, finger prints, check-in process to the detention centre left me with questions that no one could answer. Had I become “illegal” 2 minutes after a refusal letter was served to me? And did that letter emasculate me to the point where I deserved to be caged?

I saw myself in Yarlswood, with over 250 other women who looked just as confused and concerned as I was. Suddenly, I had to queue up for my meals which were determined by a prison system, the number of blankets I could cover myself with became limited to 2 thin towel like fabrics which many other people had slept in. I was subjected to a register twice a day. I became a reference number. I was given a basic cell phone with no data or recording access at all. All my movements were monitored via CCTV and even when I slept, I felt like someone was watching.

For me detention was a form of torture. I didn’t sleep much (and still cannot sleep even though I’m out), I lost weight because the food was time tabled and less than what I was used to eating. Obviously because of the stress and change in diet my immune system was compromised so whatever minor ailments I had manifested themselves and became more serious by the day; but then of course that was perceived as attention seeking, seeing as I was a “deceitful illegal immigrant” desperate to get stay in UK at all costs, no matter how immoral! Medication therefore was ordered from outside and took a couple of days to get to me.

According to Vocabulary.com, torture is defined as follows:
  1.  The deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason
  2. the act of distorting something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean.

The booklet called “Reporting on Torture – A handbook for journalists covering torture” authored by various organisations in Libya, Nepal, Peru, London (Redress) and Kenya, supported by the European Union defines torture as

 “ any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third party has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or  third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiesce of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

My understanding of detention was a situation that has been created to make sure I was frightened and uncomfortable enough to volunteer to return to my country of origin. So technically, all I went through in Yarlswood was torture.

Is the current United Kingdom very different from the German Nazis of the early 1900 centrury? Are these immigration ideologies not based on the Nazism views of Jews as “parasitic vermin worthy only of eradication?”

Regardless of your case and its merits, the United Kingdom immigration department has taken it upon themselves to eradicate immigrants and would rather place the much-needed pound in detention centres rather than save the sinking NHS.

My view is that the immigration assessment process should not be based on a target number of deportations/forced removals but on who can be regularised to benefit the United Kingdom. Assess my conduct, my history and my potential to contribute to the economy and not just how ‘removable’ I am. A lot of money will be saved if a more objective and less accusatory strategy is applied.

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