"We believe that the UK Government is abusing the considerable powers granted to it by the electorate, deliberately to inflict suffering on vulnerable migrants and refugees instead of protecting them.
"At a time when this country faces growing mental-health problems, Government policy is recklessly creating mental ill-health through its immigration policies, and ignoring medical evidence of this fact.
"We call on Government to end its policy of immigrant detention forthwith, and recognise the full human rights of all human beings without qualification.
"Meanwhile, we also call upon medical and health-care organisations to consider whether their members should be working with the current immigration detention regime - given that it actively causes ill-health."
The meeting, called by the Campaign to Close Campsfield, was attended by 65 human-rights activists, GPs, mental-health specialists, nurses, prison visitors, researchers, students and teachers.
The principal speaker was Mina Fazel, psychiatrist at Oxford's Warneford Hospital, who described a devastating, 3-10x increase in traumatic symptoms, and a 20-40% increase in suicide risk among detainees, including children, these symptoms persisting for years.
Immigrants are detained in the UK and subjected to a range of cruel and degrading sanctions, not for any harm they have caused or threatened, but (according to government's own statements) to make examples of them, to deter other potential immigrants from coming to the UK, and to impress the government's political opponents. The meeting held that this is a gross abuse of power that must cease.
The original meeting announcement, with references, for background information:
AT PUBLIC EXPENSE -
PUBLIC MEETING 7.00-9.30 pm Tuesday 23rd May 2006
The Assembly Room, Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford.
Tea/Coffee available from 6:30pm - please come early for prompt start.
AS THE HEALTH SERVICE STRUGGLES with an epidemic of mental illness, the Home Office is deliberately creating mental illness, and using taxpayers' money to do it.
Amnesty International reports that the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate now traumatises up to 25,000 innocent people a year, including children and their mothers, at 10 "Immigration Removal Centres" - one of them here in Oxford: Campsfield House, Kidlington.
There is now overwhelming evidence that detention inherently damages mental health - even of people who were previously in robust mental health. For those who have already been tortured, the damage is massive and long-term. Since the beginning of 2000, 12 detainees have committed suicide in Britain's "immigrant prisons", and at least 346 have tried to do so. This is just the tiny tip of an iceberg of harm, inflicted quite deliberately by a government that insists it must use "tough measures" to "deter" refugees and migrants from coming here.
STATE-SANCTIONED ABUSE OF MIGRANTS MUST END
We've called this meeting to launch a public movement against the detention of innocent people; against the abuse of Government power to harm instead of protecting the vulnerable. Speakers will include:
* MINA FAZEL, Clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital; co-author of the recent British Medical Journal editorial calling for an end to immigration detention. * PATRICIA MUKANDARA and MAFUNGASEI MAIKOKERA - ex-detainees at the government's Yarl's Wood centre for women and children; members of the successful Zimbabwean hunger strike held there last year. * CHRISTINE BACON - actress, activist, writer and researcher, veteran of the successful anti-detention campaigns in Australia, and expert on corporate involvement in the detention industry.
Organised by the Campaign to Close Campsfield: Phone: 01865 726804 or 01865 558145; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
BMJ EDITORIAL (4 February 2006) "Detention of refugees: Australia has given up mandatory detention because it damages detainees' mental health" by Mina Fazel and Derrick Silove:
Report by Claudia Hammond for BBC Radio 4's mental-health programme "All in the Mind", April 11th 2006, featuring interview with one of the Australian researchers, Zachary Smith. You can hear it at:
CHRISTINE BACON'S PAPER (September 2005) on the role of private prison companies in creating the "detention estate":
AMNESTY REPORT: "Seeking asylum is not a crime: detention of people who have sought asylum" (20th June 2005):
THE NUMBER OF SELF-HARM ATTEMPTS in immigration removal centres between 01 April 2004 and 31 January 2006 (released by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act, Wednesday 8th March 2006):
(Total given: 2325 individuals placed on self-harm/at risk segregation; and 346 self-harm cases that needed medical attention. There is a general assumption of wholesale under-reporting: IRCs are not under the same reporting regime as HMPs for self-harm incidents and the entire dynamics of the system militate against reporting or referring anything that can be ignored, which is easily done as IRCs are part of a "culture of disbelief". Staff still refer routinely to detainees as having "sob-stories"; in June 2005, staff at Campsfield seemed unconvinced that Ramazan Kamluca was suicidal, even after he had killed himself.)
THERE WERE 3,697 "ENFORCEMENT VISITS to residential addresses in England and Wales" between April 1st and September 30th 2005 (i.e., raids on homes by immigration snatch-squads, commonly in the early hours of the morning).
- Hansard, 9/1/06; Parliamentary answer to Mark Oaten MP.
THERE WERE 36 MOVEMENTS OF DETAINEES in or out of Campsfield IRC PER DAY in 2005. Presumably this is "movements of vehicles containing detainees". Many of these movements were between detention centres, for no apparent reason - but they have the effect of disrupting contact with lawyers, visitors and supporters, and harming any sense of security.
- figure from Campsfield's Home-Office appointed "Independent" Monitoring Board (IMB) annual report.