Hunger Strike at Texas Detention Center Swells Into the Hundreds

This comes from the RH Reality Check Reporter

by Kanya D’Almeida, Race and Justice Reporter, RH Reality Check
November 2, 2015

The number of hunger strikers at a Texas immigrant detention facility has swelled to almost 500 since last Wednesday, an Austin-based advocacy group revealed in a phone call with RH Reality Check.

When news of the protest action broke on October 28, about 27 women at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, 35 miles east of Austin, were reportedly refusing their meals.

While grievances ranged from abusive treatment by guards to a lack of medical care, the women, hailing primarily from Central America, were unanimous in their one demand: immediate release.

The strike snowballed over the weekend, according to Grassroots Leadership, an organization that forms part of a larger umbrella group known as Texans United for Families (TUFF).

 

Read the rest here.

USA: 750 immigration detainees on hunger strike

A story from the site of AP

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Immigrant-rights activists rallied outside the Northwest Detention Center on Saturday, while at least 750 detainees protested their treatment and called for an end to deportations with a hunger strike.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department said on Saturday morning that 750 detainees had refused to eat and said they were on a hunger strike.

Activist Maru Mora Villalpando said the hunger strike started Friday as a protest of deportations as well as center conditions. She said the hunger strikers, who she believes number more than 1,000, are seeking better food and treatment as well as better pay for center jobs.

“We are concerned for their welfare, and we support their brave stand against inhumane treatment. We are gravely concerned about retaliation, particularly against the hunger-strike leaders,” Villalpando said.

The center currently houses nearly 1,300 people being investigated for possible deportation.

Read the rest here.

Immigrant Stories: The nurse, the detention centre & the women with bruises

From: Politics.co.uk
By Ian Dunt, Feb. 5, 2014

An occasional series of Immigrant Stories, shining a light on the people trapped in Britain’s immigration system.

“I was working in a local hospital when I saw these women come in with handcuffs on,” Susan says.

Susan is not her real name. She talks on condition of anonymity.

“I asked about it. It was clear they’d committed no crime.

“They’d been hunger striking in the corridors of the nearby detention centre. They were grabbed by the guards.

“The nursing notes said they had no injuries and were fine. When I saw them they clearly had wrist bruises which they sustained in Yarl’s Wood. There were bruises on their backs as well. They were very distressed.”

Susan’s experience left her disturbed. Why were women who had committed no crime arriving in handcuffs, bruised, under detention?

A little while later she read a newspaper report about Yarl’s Wood. Security personnel were guarding the perimeter fence against a reverend dressed as Santa trying to give gifts to the children locked up inside.

Read the rest here.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new Directive on Segregation: Why We Need Further Protections

New Report:
In the press:

U.S. Solitary Confinement Practices of Immigrant Detainees Deficient: International Human Rights Students, Experts at John Marshall in Chicago

From: PR Web, Feb. 5, 2014

New research from the International Human Rights Clinic at The John Marshall Law School details deficiencies in current U.S. detention practices, as well as recommends measures to ensure immigrant detainees are protected and treated humanely.
Read the rest here.

Palpable desperation: Inside the invisible world of immigration detention

Reblogged from: New Statesman, Nov. 9th 2013
By Katharine Sacks-Jones

The reports of sexual abuse at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre were sadly not much of a surprise to people who work with immigration detainees.

Recent reports of sexual abuse at Yarl’s Wood shine a small spotlight on the otherwise invisible world of immigration detention. They detail how guards preyed on isolated women, subjecting them to unwanted advances, using their positions of power to coerce them into sexual acts. Shocking yes. But sadly not much of a surprise to people who work with immigration detainees.

As a trustee of a small charity, Bail for Immigration Detainees, I visited Yarl’s Wood late last year. The desperation was palpable. One of the women I met had heavily bandaged wrists. She was on 24-hour suicide watch after one failed attempt to take her own life. She, like others I spoke to, was desperate to get out of what is little more than a prison. With 30,000 people detained per year, these women are far from rare.

Many people in detention – both men and women – are incredibly vulnerable. They are often fleeing violence and persecution. About half have claimed asylum. Some have been the victims of torture and rape.  To have faced and survived such trauma, to have undertaken a difficult journey to get away, to have left behind loved ones and the world that you know, to then reach supposed safety only to be locked up is a cruel irony. And to be detained with no release date and no time-limit must be utterly hopeless.

It is little surprise that detention is incredibly damaging. Self-harm and detention go hand in hand, with studies suggesting there are higher levels of suicide and self-harm amongst detained immigrants than amongst the prison population. The impacts on physical and mental ill health are well-documented – severe distress and depression as a result of detention are common.

Read the rest here.

Hunger-Thirst strike in Dutch deportation centers (NL)

People inside immigrant detention centers in The Netherlands (Rotterdam / Schiphol – Amsterdam) are on a hunger strike. Now several are also refusing to drink. We need to show support and make politicians act now!

From: Getting the Voice Out / Deportatieverzet:

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY WITH HUNGER AND THIRST STRIKERS IN DETENTION CENTERS IN THE NETHERLANDS

Public indictment against the system of repression we call Fortress Europe

About 60 asylum seekers in detention center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, have been in hunger strike for four days now. 18 of them also stopped drinking since Wednesday 8th of May. They are protesting against the asylum policy that criminalizes refugees: they get thrown out on the streets without money or shelter and they get detained in prisons for up to 18 months. The refugees on hunger strike demand not to be treated as criminals anymore. They clearly statedthey want freedom and protection.

Wave of hunger strikes

Wednesday May 1st, twenty refugees in detention center Schiphol went on hunger strike. While the guards brutally broke down the strike in Schiphol, by putting the hunger strikers in isolation cells, about 80 refugees in detention center Rotterdam started a hunger strike on Monday 6th of May. One day later,fifty women in detention center Brugge (Belgium) also went on hunger strike.
A thirst strike is even more dangerous than a hunger strike: the latter can last for 40 days before people get in a critical situation, whereas a person who does not drink will be dead after one week.

Government arrogance

The Dutch government has shown an unbelievable arrogance in this matter.

At first, they did not respond to the demands of the refugees at all. One parliament member of the ruling party People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD) even went as far as to say the refugees “were taking the government hostage” by going on hunger strike. Then, as late as Thursday 9th May, they “provided” a worthless “offer”. In return for the end of the hunger strike, the government “offered” to shorten the usual 17 hours a day detainees are locked inside their cell with a few hours.

The hunger and thirst strikers of course rejected this ridiculous proposal and they will continue with their protest.

But things are getting very serious right now. As of Friday the third day without water begins for the refugees who have no other means of getting their voice out than to go on a hunger or thirst strike.

Refugees searching for a better life get thrown into a Kafkaesk bureaucracy of having to provide proof that doesn’t exist in order to get their permit to stay. Once rejected, undocumented refugees get thrown out on the streets and get denied basic human rights, such as food, shelter, work and health care. Racist police hunt them down and jail them. In detention, refugees are stripped from their dignity, their autonomy, their lives and their future. Once deported, no one ever hears from them again.

Right now, refugees in detention center Rotterdam are directly and unmistakeably demanding their rights and their freedom.
The government will have to respond very quickly and adequately, if they don’t want to be held responsible for dozens of deaths.

Call for solidarity

We are strongly calling for solidarity from our friends throughout Europe. Solidarity with the hunger and thirst strikers in special; and with refugees in general. The state is aimed at excluding everyone who is not directly exploitable by capital. Make it known how this insane migration policy of repression destroys the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Show your solidarity by spreading this message.

Print this letter and post it everywhere, preferably to walls that symbolize exclusion by Fortress Europe: parliament buildings, embassies, deportation offices, immigration offices, etc. Letter removed? Glue it again. Everywhere.

TOGETHER WE CAN FIGHT FORTRESS EUROPE!

Visitation Guide published by CIVIC to enable awareness for visiting people in immigrant detention facilities

We received this from an active group called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), which is the national immigration detention visitation network in the USA.

Visitation, visiting people inside immigrant detention centers, enhances their psychological wellbeing as well as their human need for companionship from outside, and it is also necessary to prevent human righs abuses from taking place or from being easily inflicted.

When people from the outside visit, those inside feel a little safer, knowing that those on the outside know their situation. And they get a break from being forced to be locked up for an uncertain amount of time. Visiting is very important, powerful, and very much needed. Here is what CIVIC wrote:

Everyday immigrants disappear and are detained by the U.S. government.

For example, Ana is a human trafficking victim who was detained for over a year, locked in solitary confinement, and forced by a guard to sleep on the cement floor of her cell until Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) ended this isolation and abuse.

Over 32,000 immigrants like Ana remain isolated in these remote detention facilities today because no
law protects a right to visitation, phone calls can cost up to $5.00 per minute, and 46% of detained migrants are transferred at least twice–often out of state and away from their families.

CIVIC is changing this reality by building and strengthening community visitation programs that are dedicated to ending the isolation and abuse of men and women in immigration detention. Visitation programs connect persons in civil immigration detention with community members. These volunteer visitors provide immigrants in detention with a link to the outside world, while also preventing human rights abuses by creating a community presence in otherwise invisible detention facilities.

CIVIC recently released A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities & Building Alliances, designed for communities across the country hoping to start a visitation program using ICE’s new Visitation Directive.

The benefit of this resource is that the general guidelines are tailored to the unique request of using the Visitation Directive as a tool to establish contact and set up a permanent visitation program. In addition, this manual provides an overview of some of the successes and roadblocks visitation programs have encountered in the first year of the Visitation Directive’s existence.

CIVIC is setting in motion a national movement to combat the isolating experience of immigration detention. To get involved or for more information, please visit their website at www.endisolation.org.

Also please visit this blog with a lot of information about immigration detention, made to make people aware of immigrant detention and visiting people inside these prisons: Detentiondialogues.blogspot.com

The Visitation Manual/Directive can be found here (PDF).

Here is a YouTube about CIVIC and visiting:

Detention Watch Network Expose and Close Reports on 10 of the Worst Immigrant Prisons in the US

From: Detention Watch Network
November 2012

Detention Watch Network has coordinated the release of ten reports which detail the acute and chronic human right violations occurring in immigration detention in the United States today. 

A group of advocates, community organizers, legal service providers, faith groups and individuals personally impacted by detention, who together have deep experience and understanding of the detention and deportation system in the U.S., have identified these ten prisons and jails as facilities that are among the worst where immigrants are detained by the U.S. government.

Detention Watch Network demands that President Obama take a first step towards ending inhumane detention and close these 10 immigrant prisons cross the country as a down payment on a complete overhaul of U.S. immigration policies and practices.

On November 28, 300 national and local organizations sent a letter to the White House, calling on President Obama to close ten of the worst detention centers in the country while making immediate changes to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of immigrants held in detention. 

Read the letter to Obama here.

For media inquires contact Silky Shah at sshah@detentionwatchnetwork.org

The Expose & Close Report on this website

Executive Summary of the Detention Watch Network Report 

Also read the article on ABC News with a Map of the prisons.

New Report Calls for End to Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention

From: SolitaryWatch
September 28, 2012 By Beth Broyles


“Are you broken yet?” Each day Rashed spent in solitary confinement at the Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois, the warden asked him this question.

An observant Muslim, Rashed had tried to advocate on behalf of another Muslim who could not speak English well. That was the “offense” that earned him his second stint in solitary, where he remained for 30 days. The first time, Rashed had asked the guards at the Dodge County Detention Facility in Wisconsin to excuse him from meals so that he could fast for Ramadan. Instead, they placed him in solitary for the remainder of the month-long observance.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had placed Rashed in detention when he arrived in the United States from his native Yemen, seeking asylum. For three years he remained in detention, transferred among several ICE-contracted facilities, as he awaited resolution of his asylum claim.

Both times Rashed was sent to solitary, it was without any formal charges being filed, any hearing, or any opportunity for review from a higher authority. “It was crazy,” he said in a press teleconference on Tuesday. He had fled Yemen to escape persecution, only to arrive in the United States and face more persecution.
This is but one of the instances of abusive and discriminatory use of solitary confinement described in a new report produced in partnership by the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Invisible in Isolation: The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention asserts that the use of solitary confinement for ICE detainees is unnecessary, costly and harmful to detainees’ physical and psychological health. It calls for an end to the practice of solitary confinement for immigration detainees.

In preparing the report, investigators interviewed detainees in segregation and solitary confinement at 14 of the 250 detention facilities, state and federal prisons, and county jails where the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detains more than 400,000 individuals per year. Many ICE detainees are actually lawful permanent residents and asylum-seekers awaiting adjudication of their cases. Their numbers include survivors of human trafficking, LGBT individuals, the elderly, and people with mental health conditions. Many do not speak English.

Despite the fact that they have not been convicted of any crime, most detainees held in facilities that “were built, and operate, as jails and prisons to confine pretrial and sentenced felons,” according to a former Homeland Security official quoted in the report. “ICE relies primarily on correctional incarceration standards … and on correctional principles of care, custody, and control. These standards impose more restrictions and carry more costs than are necessary to effectively manage the majority of the detained [immigrant] population.” Lacking adequate guidance from ICE, the report found, the guards in these facilities tend to apply their own local correctional practices by default. In a country where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in prisons and jails on any given day, these practices include a liberal use of solitary.

The report does not attempt to estimate how many detainees may be in isolation in total in all ICE facilities. (ICE does not maintain such figures, and after investigators submitted requests for information to all 250 facilities in the country, just seven of those facilities provided information about ICE detainees who were held in solitary confinement.) Based on their sample of facilities, however, researchers found that ICE’s failure to enforce consistent standards regarding solitary confinement has led to the arbitrary and excessive use of the practice. There is no oversight, nor is there any due process for detainees, leaving them without any recourse to seek review of facilities’ decisions to place them in solitary.

According to the report, ICE detainees are particularly prone to solitary confinement. Facilities often deem segregation of certain ICE detainees necessary for safety purposes, in particular those who are LGBT individuals or mentally ill. However, the investigators found that segregated detainees faced the same conditions as those in disciplinary solitary confinement. Many of the ICE LGBT detainees had left their homelands because they faced persecution and discrimination because of their identities, only to face more discrimination in detention. According to the report, when one individual asked a corrections officer at the Theo Lacy Facility in California why he reduced the recreation time for LGBT detainees from two hours to 45 minutes, the officer told him, “Because you need to learn not to be faggots.”

Discrimination against immigrant populations is another cause the investigators identified as a reason for the excessive use of solitary confinement. According to the Nobles County Jail (Minnesota) Facility’s inmate rules, “Failure to speak English when able, watching Spanish channel on the TV” are violations that are punishable by a sentence of solitary confinement. Other “disciplinary” infractions that led to time in isolation at various facilities included trying to translate for another detainee, complaining about the quality of the drinking water, having an extra blanket, and playing cards instead of attending church services.

Read the rest here:
http://solitarywatch.com/2012/09/28/new-report-calls-for-end-to-use-of-solitary-confinement-on-immigration-detainees/

Nauru detainee scarred by his five years in hell

From: Herald Sun
Aug. 20th 2012

THE last asylum seeker to leave Nauru said life in the island detention camp was worse than living in war-torn Iraq.

Mohammed Sagar, 36, whose last five months of a five-year stay on Nauru were spent mostly alone, warned Prime Minister Julia Gillard she would be “stealing people’s lives” after Labor’s “horrible” policy backflip to reopen the detention centre it had campaigned against.

Claiming that he was still suffering from his years in detention, Mr Sagar said: “I remember when we were on Nauru, when there was an election we were hoping for a Labor Party win because they would take over and change things. Labor said there were human rights issues and Australia needed to have sympathy for people in need but this now just looks like political bullshit.”

Mr Sagar, who has lived in Sweden since 2007 after the nation granted him residency, was intercepted on the “children overboard” boat in October, 2001, and was sent to Manus Island before arriving at Nauru in late 2002.
Herald Sun Digital Pass

ASIO then found him to be a security risk.

After he was granted refugee status by Sweden he unsuccessfully fought to find out why Australia deemed him a risk.

Mr Sagar said he fled Iraq fearing persecution, but the conditions and treatment on Nauru were far worse.

He said his accommodation was “worse than tents” in 30C-plus temperatures and he “almost died” on the island as he repeatedly suffered malaria, dengue fever and psychiatric problems.

He was later diagnosed in Sweden as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Inside it feels as terrible as it was five years ago,” Mr Sagar, an IT specialist living in Stockholm, said.

“It is the worst experience. The damage is extremely severe and deep. You are dead. You do not feel alive.

Read the rest here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/nauru-detainee-scarred-by-his-five-years-in-hell/story-fndo317g-1226453666581