Every moment for me is fear
As an asylum seeker, I discovered what racism really means when I was 'dispersed' to Middlesbrough
Thursday July 8, 2004
I am an asylum seeker and I am black. I believe that in Middlesbrough, where the Home Office has placed me, I am not safe.
I was a successful businesswoman in Kenya and I would love to work and contribute taxes to British society rather than get benefits - but I am not allowed to.
On buses people refuse to sit next to me and shout out "monkey" and "asylum seeker". In the street a big, strong man struck me on my back with his fists and said: "You are illegal, you should go back to your country." Boys spit at me and throw stones when I walk down the street. If I go to a public toilet, whoever is behind me in the queue won't use it after me.
One friend had fireworks thrown through her letter box. Several mothers I know left their babies in the creche at a local family centre for a couple of hours. They returned to find their babies sitting in dirty nappies. They felt this was because the staff didn't want to touch their babies. Middlesbrough reminds me of South Africa during apartheid.
I fled Kenya after a period in detention where I was raped and burned with acid and cigarettes because I belonged to a group which opposed the government. I was released on bail and was convinced that it was only a matter of time before I was jailed and tortured again.
My survival instinct took over and I left everything - my family, my business, which was worth a lot of money, and my community - to escape to a place where I thought I'd be safe. I came to England for one reason only, because I'd heard it was a country that respects human rights.
In London, where I was initially placed, I felt safe for the first time in years. There is a large Kenyan community there: it's an environment where people from many different backgrounds mostly live peacefully together and where there are support services for traumatised asylum seekers, including the only services in the country for female asylum seekers who have been raped.
But my experience in the north-east has made me realise that London is another country.
I was shocked when the immigration authorities told me I was being "dispersed" to Middlesbrough and that if I didn't go my support would be cut off. I knew of asylum seekers who refused to leave London. They ended up sleeping on the streets and going hungry.
I had no idea what it would be like in the north-east but I felt I had no choice but to go. We were transported at night by coach and placed in our new accommodation with a small amount of cash. I was given a flat on a council estate where I am the only black person.
By the time I had experienced a few days in Middlesbrough, any hope I had was in shreds. The council's asylum unit handed us a welcome pack when we arrived.
They should have called it "Welcome to Racism". It warned us about the possibility of racist attacks on asylum seekers and told us who to complain to if we experienced anything from verbal abuse to physical violence. "While members of the team are happy to listen to your concerns, they can't deal with non-emergencies," concludes the warning.
I never experienced this level of discrimination in London. Racism is not a concept I was familiar with in Kenya and only now that I have been moved to Middlesbrough do I properly understand what the word means.
The fact that an explicit warning is given to us suggests to me that the government knows exactly what they are sending us to. They have a duty of care to asylum seekers, but deliberately placing us in this environment seems to me to be wilful neglect of that duty.
There have been cases of asylum seekers being murdered in this part of the country and in Scotland. Every moment for me is fear.
I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of what happened to me in Kenya and am experiencing suicidal feelings. I'm scared of walking down the street and only go out when I have to. I'm scared of going out after 5.30pm because I know the risk of attack rises as evening approaches. I'm scared of what will happen when my asylum case comes up in North Shields - I haven't heard of any asylum seeker who has won their case there. There are too many things to have nightmares about.
I am made to feel as if I smell and there is zero tolerance for the non-existent smell of an asylum seeker. I escaped from Kenya because I wanted to live, but in Middlesbrough all I can think about is how much I want to die.
· Kamwaura Nygothi ran a wholesale food business in Kenya. She applied for asylum in February 2002. The Black Women's Rape Action Project, which has supported her, can be reached at [email protected]
An amazing and outrageous report on page two [of Dutch newspaper Trouw] focuses on a new scandal in Britain, where some jokers in the government apparently decided it was a good idea to privatise asylum-seeker centers: "Sneakily humiliating asylum-seekers". As could have bloody well been expected, it turns out the private owners cut costs on employment and showed little concern for the humanitarian aspects of the work: "Recruiting interested personnel has apparently not been the greatest concern of Global Solutions." Global Solutions is the company that ran the Oakington asylum centre in Oxfordshire, and a secretly filmed BBC documentary exposes how guards there talk about those "bastards" (Romanians) and "secretive fuckers" (Chinese) and boast to each other about how many faces they've smashed and teeth they've knocked out. "The trick is", they explain each other, "to take it out on asylum-seekers without being caught by security cameras or superiors". A counsellor describes in the documentary how he would grab women asylum-seekers by their tits: "that was a laugh".
Call to axe firm in asylum seeker racism row
Thursday March 3, 2005
Campaigners today called for the government to stop awarding contracts to the firm at the centre of last night's BBC exposé into racism and abuse at asylum seeker detention centres.
Undercover journalists secretly filmed employees of Global Solutions Limited (GSL) espousing racist views and talking of assaulting detainees.
In response, the firm suspended 15 staff members from "frontline duties" pending an inquiry into the programme, Detention Undercover. GSL said it did not "tolerate racism, discrimination or any form of abuse". The government said it took the allegations "extremely seriously" and was examining them.
Today, speaking at a protest outside the Home Office, Emma Ginn, a spokeswoman for the National Coalition of Anti- Deportation Campaigns (NCADC), criticised the government for giving GSL contracts despite allegations of abuse.
She said that last year the prisons ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, had criticised the firm for having some racist staff and had voiced concerns about its vetting of employees after it emerged one was a British National party member.
Ms Ginn said: "It can't be right that the government continues to use GSL when there is so much concern about racist and abusive staff."
The film shows two employees at the Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire saying that the asylum seekers are not "worth anything"; another employee tells a detainee to "get out of bed before I do you some ******* damage ... my grandfather shot your great grandfather and nicked his ******* country off you for 200 years."
Ms Ginn said the NCADC was concerned at "worrying trends including allegations of failure to investigate [abuse and race allegations] by the police and detainees being removed from the UK before their cases have been dealt with".
In the film, one employee tells an undercover reporter that detainees cannot complain if they are removed. Another employee who handles racial abuse complaints says he talks detainees out of making complaints.
A union official says he stands up for staff who are being investigated even though "we know they done it" and tells a reporter that they can give detainees "some bleeding pain" if they are careful not to get caught.
Two former detainees told the filmmakers that they were physically assaulted while in detention and in part of the footage, employees tell one undercover reporter that they should "smack" detainees in areas where there are no CCTV cameras, such as in lifts.
Also at today's protest at the Home Office was Richard Solly of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice, who said that people should not be surprised by abuse at the detention centres because the system was "abusive".
Mr Solly said: "What needs to happen is a total change of the terms of debate about asylum because all we have at the moment is the two main parties trying to outbid each other on who can be the most hardline.
"We are against any detention against people who are not a genuine risk to society."
He expressed deep concern about apparent evidence in the programme that the racist views of some of the employees were exacerbated by their contact with asylum seekers.
Geoffrey Duncan of the Thames North Synod of the United Reform Church said that he was especially concerned at the detention of children. He said: "The whole ethos around the subject has to change ... some sections of the media give people such a prejudiced view about asylum and somebody somewhere has got to have enough integrity to say that this is not the truth."
guards shouting racial remarks at cowering inmates, bragging about their sexual conquests and admitting to physical violence.
In one secretly filmed scene, a security guard, Jason Martin, warns an ill-looking detainee at Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire, eastern England, to get out of bed before "I do you some damage".
The skinheaded Martin, nick-named Wolfie, then tips the man out of bed after saying: "My great-grandfather shot your great-grandfather and nicked his f---ing country off you for 200 years. I'm not to be f---ed about with."
In another excerpt, a trainee escort officer who takes failed asylum seekers to the airport to leave Britain, described how he groped female inmates.
"I just put my hand down her tits one time .... I just started touching her up right. Good laugh," he said.
Britain jailed three soldiers on Friday for abusing Iraqi detainees but faced questions over why it failed to punish anyone for forcing prisoners to simulate sex acts in photos that echoed Abu Ghraib.
A newspaper embarrassed the authorities by locating victims whom prosecutors had failed to find in a 20-month investigation.
Without the victims' testimony, prosecutors were unable to convict anyone for staging the sex abuse which soldiers had photographed during a crackdown on looters in Basra in May 2003.
Prisoners in the photos had been stripped naked and forced to simulate anal and oral sex, mirroring the notorious pictures of abuse taken by US troops at the Abu Ghraib jail.
An independent expert is investigating claims that five asylum seekers being transferred from detention in Melbourne to South Australia were mistreated.
The asylum seekers have complained to the federal ombudsman and human rights watchdog that they were not given water and food on a seven-hour trip from Maribyrnong to Baxter detention centre at Port Augusta.
They also said they were denied the chance to go to the toilet.
There's that old saying that you need quite a bit of luck in politics. Well we've had quite a bit of luck in that newspapers have become obsessed with the asylum issue. I have not been able to believe the Daily Express. Issue after issue, day after day, asylum this, asylum that. So we now have the luxury of banging on people's doors with the mainstream issue of the day.
The immigration system in the UK is completely overwhelmed. The UK is the destination of choice for so-called asylum seekers who come here in the hundreds of thousands every year. If people face persecution in their own country and wish to leave they should do so and go to the NEAREST country of refuge.
Walter, We had our own Secretary of State on TV last night admitting that the net difference between the number of aliens (not tourists) who come to this country and then leave every year is nearly 200,000 who have no right to be here. [..] I can't argue with my own Government's figures can I?
Ilire Xhama fled her home in Serbia after a life of persecution. As a Roma, a Muslim and an Albanian-speaker, she faced violence and degrading treatment at the hands of both Serbs and Kosovans.
One-night three years ago, armed men surrounded her home and set fire to it. Running for their lives, Ilire, and her husband were beaten while their home burned. Ilire was in the early stages of pregnancy. Her husband was beaten to death while urging his wife to make her escape with their 4-year-old daughter. The little girl witnessed the atrocity.
Both Ilire and her daughter now face emotional and mental health problems of the highest order. Despite her fear, grief, and ill health, Ilire has tried to make a life here for her children, (her son was born in the North East a few months after Ilire arrived). Both children speak English as their first language. They attend school here, have made friends and settled into something of a normal life.
The Home Office says that it is safe for her and the children to return to the place where she and her daughter were traumatised and the little boy has never lived.
Reports this year by the United Nations, Amnesty International and others have expressed 'grave' and 'deep and continuing concern' over the plight of the Roma (in particular in that part of Europe).
The Kosovan Ombudsman has written to European governments saying that Roma asylum seekers who were returned faced considerable risk and that their human rights were being violated.
Although Ilire's health is of serious concern and her will to continue is diminishing, her friends, her children's friends and her neighbours want to see her safe, so that she can, in time, recover and give her children a future.
Ilire Xhama. Home Office Ref: X1032702
The UK Association of Gypsy Women asks in the name of humanity for all Roma / Romany Gypsies / Travellers in the UK and indeed around the world to help llire and her little family to stay in the UK. To prevent this mother and her children from being sent back to a country where her husband was murdered and from where she had to flee to protect her child and her unborn child.
Her fear of being deported back must be unimaginable and so for this we ask you all to join a campain to stop the deportation of llire and her children. We must ask the question, why is the Home Office so hell bent on deporting a young mother in such ill health with two young children - is it because they are Roma?
We ask you to send your protests to
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Also address Ilire's MP Ashok Kumar by e-mail: [email protected]
Thank you all for taking the time to read this and God Bless from all at UK Association of Gypsy Women!
Jeeez Nimh, did a Brit sh*t on your cornflakes recently?
The tone of this entire thread seems to infer that all British people read the Sun, and other such cr*p. What's more, you're assuming that we all believe every single word.
Please credit some of us with a bit more intelligence.
Oh, and by the way.....wasnt the Dutch/ EU Constitution "No" vote mainly a protest against its immigration policy?
No Government is perfect, and the British Government made a grave error when it came to their policy of "dispersement". It was badly thought out, and simply imposed without proper research and consultation.
Middlesborough is, and has been for years, a high unemployment area.
Bringing Asylum seekers in such a high profile way, to such an area, was bound to cause tension.
The background to this, is the fact that any asylum seeker that appears in England, will immediately head for London. Year after year, the vast majority of asylum seekers have settled in and around London, and the City's services (housing, hospitals etc) were beginning to feel the strain.
Similar problems with both immigrants, and Asylum seekers were also being experienced by other Countries, apparently.....
And then I added more about the same topic - as one does, with threads about a certain topic.