Image courtesy of Anna Draper
This post was written by the Morton Hall Detainee Visitor Group (MHDVG). The quotations included in the post are from people currently detained in Morton Hall, who have spoken with MHDVG for this piece.
Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre is in Swinderby, Lincolnshire, and is currently one of the UK’s largest detention centres, holding up to 392 men. Previously a women’s prison, with relatively low security, it was re-opened with enhanced security measures, including the extensive use of razor wire.
Since then, and usually following any form of detainee protest (nearly always about how they are treated by the staff) the razor wire has been substantially increased.
[During the September 2014 protest] I sat on a sofa … officers come in and start beating me on the head with heavy shields. They break my nose, two front teeth and two toes. They hold my neck and stop me breathing. After, the officers laugh at me. I don’t see a doctor for four days.
Morton Hall continues to be run by the prison service and anecdotal evidence confirms that staff attitude towards detainees is still that of a prison regime. In fact, relatively high-ranking staff within Morton Hall itself have said as such to ourselves. Another feature of Morton Hall is that guards carry, and therefore can use, batons (what some might call a cosh) as part of so-called normal Personal Protective Equipment. Quite how a weapon can be classed as ‘normal’ and ‘protective’ is surely taking irony to an extreme.
This is despite the alleged function of Immigration Removal Centres being administrative not punitive.
Due to its extreme isolation many of the detainee’s family live a considerable number of miles away. They can go for weeks or months without seeing their partners, wives, children, mothers, fathers or friends.
I have been in the UK since I was 3 years old. I am scared I will be killed in my home country for fleeing the war.
Morton Hall Detainee Visitor Group
MHDVG was formed in July 2011 following the opening of Morton Hall as an Immigration Removal Centre. We are based in Nottingham, about 35 miles away from Swinderby (where Morton Hall is located). Our purpose is to support those detained by providing a link to the outside world. We offer social visits and/or phone support to anyone who would like it.
We are quite a small group with around 12 visitors currently. All are volunteers, including the group co-ordinator and treasurer. We have no paid staff or workers.
New visitor recruitment is usually by word of mouth or by someone making contact after seeing our details somewhere. We support new visitors by pairing them with an experienced visitor until they are happy to go it alone.
We understand too that we are unique amongst visitor groups in having access to a 24 hour, professional counselling service for any of us who feels the need. This is free to the individual with the group paying any charges.
We also meet monthly to share experiences and ideas, and to support each other with any difficulties. This can, and does, also take place online. No one is expected to take on anything they are uncomfortable with.
If you would like to discuss volunteering with us, please ring 07758 604 293, or email firstname.lastname@example.org