THE HOME Office itself has produced figures showing that more than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been on hunger strike in the last four years, protesting at their detention, threatened deportation and conditions.
The Home Office defines a hunger strike ‘when someone refuses to eat or drink for at least a 48-hour period as a form of protest’. The figures show that there were 1,024 hunger strikers in 2017 alone.
The Tories’ Hostile Environment is in full swing. Refugees and asylum seekers are barred from working, driven into poverty and destitution, forcibly arrested, incarcerated in detention centres in terrible conditions and then bundled onto planes and deported.
Deportation is an extremely brutal process: refugees and asylum seekers, flanked by private security guards, are physically restrained and forced onto the plane.
There were 447 cases where one or more forms of restraint were used in deportations between April 2018 and March 2019, involving rigid bar handcuffs, leg restraints and waist restraint belts.
Lovelyn Edobor, a disabled Nigerian victim of trafficking, said that when the Home Office tried to deport her in 2017, she was placed in a waist restraint belt attached to a long chain and dragged along.
In 2010, Jimmy Mubenga suffered cardio-respiratory collapse after being restrained by G4S guards on a deportation flight. An inquest jury found that he had been ‘unlawfully killed’.
On the plane, the G4S guards used a restraint nicknamed ‘carpet karaoke’: the technique of pushing his head down hard so that any noise he made was directed toward the floor. Jimmy Mubenga repeatedly exclaimed, ‘I can’t breathe!’ before he died.
Labour Tottenham MP David Lammy said: ‘The ancestors of many of those who find themselves on these flights were once put in chains and shackles too. This abuse of power is utterly shameful and future generations will look back on it with horror.’
Conditions refugees and asylum seekers face in the detention centres are as horrific. Many are run by private companies like G4S. Brook House Immigration Removal Centre is a privately managed detention centre, operated by G4S on behalf of the UK Border Agency. The facility is situated in the grounds of Gatwick Airport, Crawley, West Sussex.
In September 2017, an investigation by BBC Panorama revealed ‘widespread self-harm and attempted suicides’ in the centre. Covert footage recorded by a detention custody officer showed officers mocking, abusing and assaulting detainees. This is why so many refugees go on hunger strike.
A report by the National Audit Office published in July 2019 revealed that between 2012 and 2018 G4S made a gross profit of £14.3m (a rate of between 10% and 20% per year) from running the detention centre.
And it’s not just the private companies profiting. The Home Office itself made £500 million in profit last year from the soaring immigration fees charged to hundreds of thousands of people applying, or forced to apply, for British residency and citizenship.
The Hostile Environment, created under the Tory government, is the modern equivalent of the slave trade. The US rulers and their running dogs the British ruling class have launched war after war, destroying Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan to mention just a few.
When families flee the horror of war, when they arrive in the UK they are subjected to a new horror, the horror of immigration centres.
At the beginning of last year, more than 120 women incarcerated in the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre launched their hunger strike. They scrawled across their T-shirts ‘We are not animals!’ Yarl’s Wood is run by the private company Serco.
Doctors’ union, the BMA, produced a report entitled: ‘Locked up, locked out’ in which they state: ‘All immigration centres should be shut down.’
There is only one force that can do this and it is the working class. The working class must unite with asylum seekers and refugees in a general strike to bring down this government and put an end to the capitalist system. This is the way forward!