In this installment of Detainee Perspectives, Border Criminologies' Blerina Kellezi brings extracts from an interview conducted during fieldwork in Tinsley House and Brook House immigration removal centres (IRCs) in 2011 alongside Mary Bosworth. The broader research project investigated issues relating to the quality of life and mental health in detention, migration, and gender. This man's testimony, gathered after he was released, reveals the enduring effect of confinement.
Women and men experience detention individually, yet they share certain struggles due to the uncertainty of outcome and length of their confinement and the impact of it on their families, their present, and their future. These extracts are taken from an interview I conducted with one man with whom I had spent considerable time in detention. In our conversation, which occured after he was released, he explains his view of detention, his relationships with centre staff, and the manner in which his confinement affected his life and his relationships with his children.
Q: What was detention like?
A: It's a different world. And I would never wish it for anyone... I never been to prison, but when I heard about prison I would say prison is better than detention centre. …When you're in detention centre, you have no rights. You are an immigration offender. You not allowed... you are not wanted in the United Kingdom, that means you have no rights whatsoever… You see the detention centre―it's out of the UK, although it is inside the United Kingdom. It is in the UK, but detention centre is a different mandate. It's out of the UK. It's not a UK land at all. You see, but to their surprise is that I never gave up. I never gave up at all…. It was hell for me, yes. It was really, really hell for me like, but I never gave up. Because it's not because for me to stay in the country, because UK is not heaven. I already told them that. It's because of my kids, that is why I was fighting more. I told them. I said “You want to remove me to any country in the world, do it. But on one condition―my kids must be on the plane first before I was on the plane.” They said no, they cannot remove my kids.
Q: What were the relationships with officers in detention like?
A: There are officers who are nice, but you cannot trust them, because yes they are nice, but again they are doing their job. That is what they are paid to do…. There is one per cent, one per cent of officers are nice, but the rest... let me tell you why we don't trust all. Because some of them, they have that fixed smile. They start making nice to you, for you to give them what they wanted―information. … Some of them just come, just to work, make the money and go home; they don't care. But some of them, they really, really care. When they care, when they show it, they mean it.
Q: How did being detained impact your life?
A: I lost my mortgage because they repossessed my house. And that is where my relationship came unstuck, coming broken down. And the relationship with my kids. I want to make up for the twelve months, for the twelve months I was in, you see. So even my son, who I left him he was how much, he was eighteen month. When I came back, he started talking… Yeah, he remembered in a way. But it's not that much remembrance. So I'm trying by any means, I'm trying anyhow right, just to make up that time…. The only thing that is killing me right now, right, is my kids. It's killing me because I don't know how to make it up to them. Because my, daughter is still asking me where did I disappear for one year. Till now she's still asking me. I just said I was out of the country. And she doesn't believe it. ... I want to make it up to her but I don't know why it's not working. I'm not feeling like anything I do is good. … I'm just feeling that anything I do for them, it's nothing. Because I missed a lot for their years. I missed a lot in their years. … I missed that job, to be daddy again. I missed it. Make me kind of forget. When I saw my daughter the first time after I came out, I was scared. Seriously. I don't know what to do. I know… She just jump straight to me, but I was scared to hold her, to touch her, to... kind of like I forgot what to do.
Q: What was life like after detention?
A: The hardest thing when you come out of detention, the hardest about it is that I was not able to support my family. They did it for me, they apply for the disability, which they gave me, £200 a week. I did it for three months, I got fed up. After I finish I said “You know what, stop the disability. I want to go back to work.” It helped going back to work. It really, really helped, I'm telling you. Nothing goes back to normal. It doesn't. Because inside is a different world from outside. We have to again, readjust with the public life. You have to readjust yourself. You have, if you don't take care of yourself, you get affected more. Because inside, nothing helps. Everything damage your health inside. The food is rubbish. Everything is rubbish, you see. So because inside damage your health, you have to, when you come out you have to first see a medical. That's the first thing to do. ... I went, started going to the gym and this, that's why I've gone back to normal. … Went I went back to work. It's still hard. It was difficult for me the first two weeks. Because everybody “Where've you been? Where were you? Where were you?” These are the questions.
Q: How has being detained changed you?
A: For the better. Because before I was not even care about anything. Yes, like I was against things, right, but I was not embracing it. I was not openly talking about it. But now when I'm against something, I say it in front of everyone; I don't care. … I'm living in a like a two life. One way I want to revenge on anyone who was, who was, right, in front of me at that time. Who was in charge of me at that time, right. And the other way, I want to help people who are in there. … They diagnosed me with in the hospital. PTSD… they classify me as a disability, as disabled. Mentally disabled, not mentally like crazy, no. Like some sort of disability.
Q: Who and what has helped?
A: Medical Justice was really, really helping me out. Did a lot of good work for me. … And their barristers are really, really good. Seriously, the barristers are really, really good… Seriously.
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