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The sins of the fathers
April 28, 2009 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre has seen hunger strikes and rioting. Now the British government has issued a report finding that its children "are being denied urgent medical treatment, handled violently and left at risk of serious harm". The Border and Immigration Minister replies, "If people refuse to go home then detention becomes a necessity."

Plans have been approved to double the size of the facility. Of course, the right-wing feels that the detainees have it too good already.
posted by Joe Beese (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Immigration Removal Centre"? Really?

How do I send these people a map to Canada?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:33 AM on April 28, 2009


Shameful.
posted by Sova at 9:43 AM on April 28, 2009


They don't have a right to live in Britain, right? And they're not refugees, obviously, because there is a process by which refugees get status in Britain and in every other Western country. So what are they doing there? And why are you upset by their being detained? Do you think everyone on earth has a right to live in Britain, and enjoy free health care and schooling and all the other good stuff that your excellent government provides for its tax-paying citizens?
posted by alexwoods at 10:06 AM on April 28, 2009


The problem isn't that they're being detained, alexwoods. It's that they are being detained for well over a month. Children in prison is bad enough, without the issues of inadequate supervision or medical care. It's all a bit too Dickensian, really.

The alternative would be to speed up the removals process for failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants, I guess. But even then, you'd have concerns about right to appeal.
posted by Grrlscout at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2009


It's the same in a number of immigration detention centers here in the U.S., as well - there was a facility in Texas that was having the kids line up many times a day or headcounts, wear jail uniforms, etc. It was also run by a private corporation.

Being in a country illegally does not actually mean that you or your children should be denied medical treatment: The commissioner found that seriously ill children were denied hospital treatment, while bureaucracy substantially delayed others with critical conditions from getting to hospital. A baby with pneumonia and a teenager with severe mental health problems were among those affected. Despite being the main detention centre for children, no one on the Yarl's Wood health team has child health qualifications, the report says. (emphasis mine)

What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by rtha at 11:09 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


rtha: "It's the same in a number of immigration detention centers here in the U.S., as well"

Indeed. For all I know, ours are even worse. The reason I'm posting about Britain is because of the government-issued report. That seems to move it from political football to public disgrace.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:20 AM on April 28, 2009


Which is as it should be (public disgrace, that is). Thanks for the (depressing, why-are-people-so-fucked-up-I-hate-them-all) post, Joe. If it's true that you judge how civilized a place is by how it treats its weakest members, neither the U.S nor Britain has much to boast about.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2009


They don't have a right to live in Britain, right? And they're not refugees, obviously, because there is a process by which refugees get status in Britain and in every other Western country. So what are they doing there? And why are you upset by their being detained? Do you think everyone on earth has a right to live in Britain, and enjoy free health care and schooling and all the other good stuff that your excellent government provides for its tax-paying citizens?

Well, the state can deny anybody the right to live or remain in the country if they're not a citizen, so they idea that lack of legal right = lack of moral right doesn't follow. Legitimate asylum seekers don't always get an honest hearing, and many people are sent back to countries where they really will be persecuted, as is the case with many LGBT people, but doubtless several other groups too.

Detention is especially harsh, not only because of the children involved, but because of the length of time it can take. We could do better by speeding up the process, and making it more transparent and easier to navigate. But at the very least, if we're going to detain people for extended lengths of time, then let us adequately provide for those people in terms of healthcare and other needs. There is no need to treat people inhumanely, even if we regard them as having broken the law.

However, we could also choose to accept (Europe as a whole here) that a certain amount of immigration from all skill levels is both workable and necessary. The welfare state that immigrants are so often accused of weakening with their claims is just as much at threat from the kinds of demographic changes that immigration can ameliorate. The reciprocal basis of welfare can work both ways: they can have the benefits of what we started, just as long as they're willing to provide the labour to fill the gaps in the system. I know that reduces immigration to stark economic terms, but it's something very real we face, and arguments against immigration tend to ignore it.
posted by Sova at 12:10 PM on April 28, 2009


If you really want to speed up their deportations from England the trick is to falsely accuse them of terrorism and get the police to embarrass themselves and want the problem gone. There are procedures after all.
posted by srboisvert at 12:58 PM on April 28, 2009


Here we go again with the privately run prisons, I mean detention centers I mean teen boot camps I mean oh forget it. As rtha said, why are people so fucked up I hate them all. And I hate privatization of these institutions. Why does anyone think this is a good idea? (I will now wait patiently for someone to show me a privately run example that's actually doing good work.)
posted by scratch at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2009


many people are sent back to countries where they really will be persecuted, as is the case with many LGBT people

= asylum
(at least in the US, if you can show persecution wherever you came from you're eligible for asylum)

Everyone else - it blows my mind that you think the British government is obligated to clothe and feed and doctor anyone who shows up there. The criminals in this story are the illegal immigrants who cynically bring their kids to England expecting a free ride.
posted by alexwoods at 1:30 PM on April 28, 2009


The criminals in this story are the illegal immigrants who cynically bring their kids to England expecting a free ride.

Look, I don't even like children and I wish everyone would stop reproducing, but even I believe all governments are obligated, yes obligated, to provide medical care to ill children. I guess alexwoods's mind is easily blown.
posted by scratch at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


(at least in the US, if you can show persecution wherever you came from you're eligible for asylum)

This completely ignores the first half of the sentence you are replying to which says "legitimate asylum seekers don't always get an honest hearing". Only a minority of asylum seekers are successful. According to the official website:
In 2007, 19 out of every 100 people who applied for asylum were recognised as refugees and given asylum. Another nine out of every 100 who applied for asylum but did not qualify for refugee status were given permission to stay for humanitarian or other reasons.
posted by ninebelow at 1:49 PM on April 28, 2009


AlexWoods, I wished I shared your certainty that they are all 'illegal immigrants'. Decision making on asylum applications is very flawed.

In 2006, nearly half (47%) of refused asylum applications were overturned for Somalis, with similar figures for Eritreans and Zimbabweans. In other words, the decision that the person was an illegal immigrant rather than a refugee, was wrong nearly HALF the time. Not all refused asylum seekers will have had the quality legal advice necessary to take it to appeal and win.

So without doubt, there will be people in Yarlswood who are genuine refugees, who deserve to be allowed to remain in the UK. And they and their children are treated in a way which brings shame on this country. (As does the way we treat the children of people who aren't genuine refugees - while they are here, we have responsibility to look after them). Illegal immigrants or not, I'd rather have them in this country than the clipboard-toting blakey-moustached jobsworth no-mark arsewits who are denying children medical care when they need it.

Also, I am a UK taxpayer and I'd much, much rather my taxes went to treating the children of foreign people in a civilised manner while they are in this country, than blowing their limbs off while they are in another.
posted by reynir at 2:14 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, I don't even like children and I wish everyone would stop reproducing, but even I believe all governments decent humans are obligated, yes obligated, to provide medical care to ill children.
posted by fontophilic at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2009


it blows my mind that you think the British government is obligated to clothe and feed and doctor anyone who shows up there.

Where did anyone say this? Except for the doctoring part, that is. Because yes, even if you are in a country illegally, you, as a human being, deserve to some measure of medical care, and since you are effectively incarcerated and therefore unable to seek medical care on your own, the authorities in charge of holding you need to provide it. Unless, of course, you prefer that your penile cancer be ignored by authorities until they decide to release you so they don't have to pay for treatment, your penis gets amputated, and then you die. Or maybe it would be better if, "racked with pain and too weak to walk, detention officials refused [you] a wheelchair, failed to take [you] to scheduled appointments for an M.R.I. exam or a CT scan, and instead took [you] in shackles to Hartford, where [you were] pressured to withdraw [your] legal appeals and accept deportation." And then you died of cancer and a broken spine. (This is all U.S., not U.K.; I have a tiny hope that even privatised prisons in the U.K. aren't this bad. I'm probably wrong.)

Yes, let's treat those asylum seekers with requests under appeal and any other illegal immigrant like this. It's all they deserve. We should take pride in treating people this way; it makes us look big and strong and tough and not to be messed with.

Right?

(And let's not even get into the public health implications of denying medical care to incarcerated people who will soon be released, either in your own country or back in theirs.)
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Because yes, even if you are in a country illegally, you, as a human being, deserve to some measure of medical care, and since you are effectively incarcerated and therefore unable to seek medical care on your own, the authorities in charge of holding you need to provide it."

Well said. I'll augment that by saying I think privatization of the prison system is an abdication of the right of the state to incarcerate someone. But I'll open that can 'o worms from the other side - what happens if I assault a guard? Obviously, I'll get beat on, punished, etc. But - do they charge me with assaulting an officer? No, because he's merely a contractor.
Ok. What happens if he assaults me? Who is responsible?
I'd argue this sort of eigenstate these things tend to be left in is by design. But that whole issue aside - anytime the state seizes someone for whatever reason there are punitive measures already on the books.
That is, if you steal a car, you get sentenced to 'x' years in prison. People voted in representatives. The legislature voted on the law. Law enforcement apprehends someone who breaks it. A judge rules on the case. And prisons and guards exist to ensure the punishment is carried out.
Through each stage power held accountable for execution of the will of the people.
What if a prison guard thought that someone didn't really do the crime and let them out?
Or, in this case, a guard thought someone belonged here and let them out?
People would be pretty irate. It's not what we've all agreed to.

So why then no outrage when someone sees fit to subvert the law by doing more?
There are no laws on the books that mandate the withholding of medical treatment as a form of punishment.
The human rights arguments can stand alone. But on top of them - why should some rank and file jagoff be given tacit approval for doing something other than what they're supposed to be doing?
Maybe we hate immigrants, maybe we love them. But if I tell someone to make sure some guy doesn't leave his room, I don't want to come back and see the guard forcing him to eat shoe polish any more than I want to see that the guard has let the guy go.

That's where the money is going. You pay to enforce your border integrity. One of the methods that ensures the efficiency of that is treating people with equability so they don't become desperate. So that attacking guards en masse becomes a good idea because you know they're not going to give you any medical care.
Hell, by the "obligated to provide" logic - why feed them? Why not just slaughter them indiscriminately? They don't have a right to be on your soil, treat them as invaders and kill them.
Again - basic human rights and morality aside, history shows what happens when you do that.
It's simply more efficient to treat people with dignity and care because this makes them more compliant with a law (that may be reasonable) that they do not like.
So you're paying to prevent chaos. As it so happens, that takes the form of medical care and food during incarceration.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:14 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Years ago I worked in an immigrant detention centre as a chef one summer holiday. 13 hour shifts, 4 days a week. The place was run by a private firm, and, to my mind at least, was not much like a prison.

First up, the food was way better than I was getting as a student. Second up, it had none of the edgy atmosphere of a prison, not least because there were men and women housed in the same facility. I don't recall any children, at least not where I was. Detainees were locked in at night, but for anyone who went to boarding school in the UK before the 1989 Children Act, it wasn't all that bad. There was a shop, a library, a games room, free access to phones, and open space. Once the day started, detainees had it to themselves to do what they wanted. Medical and dental care were on a par with what a British citizen would expect from the NHS. I wouldn't pretend it was a holiday camp, but for many of the people in the centre, there were considerably worse places to be.

The problem was boredom and frustration, because of the length of time the process took. Bearing in mind asylum seekers typically destroy their travel documents before arrival, there is a hiccup in the process from the start that isn't there if you just, say, overstay your visa. There were also several rounds of appeal, which meant that even though a decision had been made to deport someone, actually effecting that decision took ages.

Nobody - not the people in the system or the people running the system, thought it worked brilliantly. There were examples during my brief time there of people who had strong cases but got deported and the reverse.

But I've yet to see someone come up with a much better system that deals with the root issue - having immigration controls, but managing them humanely and fairly. Put asylum seekers on the equivalent of bail and many just melt away. Lower the bar for entry and the flow of immigrants becomes an unmanageable tide. Asylum issues are necessarily complex. Proving your life is in danger because you're gay or an activist is notoriously difficult to prove and for each valid claim there are others manipulating the system. There is also grey area between economic migration and asylum seeking. Whatever else places like Somalia, Zimbabwe are, they also dirt poor, tough places to make a living or raise a family.

The process is necessarily long because it gives asylum seekers multiple opportunities to make and appeal their case. I also recall in our centre there were a very small minority (5 or so out of a few hundred detainees) who had left their mother country because they had committed fairly serious crimes [they later went on to orchestrate a mini riot, beat the crap out of a cleaner and destroyed the games room]
posted by MuffinMan at 1:00 AM on April 29, 2009


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