Posts Tagged ‘lack of care’

UFFC Annual Rally & Procession

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

Next Saturday, 30th September 2021, I hope to be photographing this years United Families and Friends Campaign annual remembrance procession. Meeting from noon in Trafalgar Square, at 1pm they will march in silent procession along Whitehall, followed by a noisy protest outside Downing Street.

Janet Alder, the sister of Christopher, killed by police in Hull in 1998

The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) mission is to work collaboratively as a network of independent campaigns to address common issues and concerns related to deaths and abuse in police, penal, mental health and immigration detention; and to organise events and activities that promote awareness and support for affected families across the UK. “

Marcia RIgg, whose brother Sean was killed in Brixton Police station in 2008

This procession has taken place on the last Saturday of October every year since 1999 to “to remember loved ones who have died in custody” and the UFFC invite all to “Come and support the families of those who have died at the hands of police, prison and secure medical units in the United Kingdom.”

Among the victims are Christopher Alder, Ibrahim Sey, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester, Seni Lewis, Adrian McDonald, Darren Cumberbatch, Rashan Charles, Sean Rigg, Jack Susianta, Sheku Bayoh, Mikey Powell, Paul Coker and Cameron Whelan, and many others whose families are among those involved in organising the event.

Seni Lewis, killed in 2010

The invitation to attend states “The UFFC annual procession is supported by: Black Lives Matter UK, 4WardEverUK, Migrant Media, INQUEST, UNISON, RMT, FBU, UNITE, Tottenham Rights, Sisters Uncut, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence, LARAG, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), Pan African Society Community Forum, Institute of Race Relations, Edge Fund, National Union of Students and DTRTP.”

I’ve photographed this event, and been deeply moved by it, most years since I first heard about it in 2003. The pictures with this post are all from nine years ago in 2012 when the protest was on 27th October.

The procession ends with a rally opposite Downing St where family members speak

That year as in all years there were new names to add to the list of 3,180 known custody deaths since 1969, chosen as the date when David Oluwale was killed – and two officers convicted of several assault charges. Since then many of those over three thousand have died in situations where foul play seems obvious, but a Full Fact investigation has found only one single police or prison officer has been convicted of murder or manslaughter or assault related to a death in custody – Sergeant Alwyn Sawyer, convicted in 1986 for the manslaughter of Henry Foley. A few other police officers have been prosecuted but the cases against them have collapsed or they have been found not guilty.

Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennet whose twin Leon Patterson was beaten to death by Manchester Police in 1992

Clearly police and others have difficult jobs, but there needs to be transparency and an intention, still sadly lacking, to get at the truth. The immediate response of the police is still normally to deliberately mislead about the circumstances and to cover up on behalf of the officers involved. It has taken years of dogged and dedicated action by family members, often having to do work the police should have done, overcoming obstacles put in their way for a few families to get to the truth about how their family members died – and sometimes to get inquest verdicts which reflect this. But still not to get justice.

Jan Butler holding a photograph of her son Lloyd, who died in a police cell

As the invitation to the event ends “We look forward to seeing you – No Justice No Peace“. No Justice No Peace is a sentiment that will fill Whitehall on Saturday, echoing from the offices which line the street, but which as in previous years will sadly fall on the deaf ears of our establishment.

More from 2012 at No More Police Killings, Time For Justice.


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Immigration Detention – a National Shame

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Detainees seen through the wire fence, Harmondsworth Detention Centre, Sat 7 Jun 2014

Recently the Home Office under Priti Patel got its knuckles rapped in court, when the High Court ruled it broke the law by housing cross-channel migrants in the run-down Napier barracks in Folkestone, Kent. Public Health England had earlier warned that the barracks were unsuitable for accommodation for asylum seekers during the Covid pandemic, and with 380 detained in poorly sectioned off rooms of 12-14 with shared bathrooms and toilets the spread of infection was clearly inevitable, with around 200 people catching Covid-19.

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 requires the Home Office to provide “support” for asylum seekers who are unable to support themselves, including if needed accommodation, but this must be adequate for their needs. Clearly in this case they were not, and the situation was worsened by employing a private contractor to run the barracks, who in turn outsourced much of the work required.

John McDonnell MP speaking

Many of those sent to the barracks were clearly unsuitable to be housed there because of pre-existing mental health issues arising from trafficking and/or torture before their arrival in the UK – and the Home Office’s own assessment criteria should have prevented them being sent to the barracks.

The whole judgement is complex and lengthy but reading the evidence it examines leaves the impression of a total lack of concern for human rights and common humanity in the operation of our asylum system, and one which is evident across the whole range of how we deal with migrants and asylum. In 2020 over 23,000 people were held in detention centres in the UK, around a third held for more than a month; but it is indefinite detention with no limit to the time they may be held and for some their stay has lasted around three years. Over half of those detained have claimed asylum.

Of those detained in 2019, just over a third were deported, some illegally. A small number – just over 300 in the year ending 2019 – received compensation, averaging £26,000, after proving their detention was illegal. (figures from https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/immigration-detention-in-the-uk/ The Migration Observatory.)

On Saturday 7th June 2014 I went to the neighbouring detention centres (a polite name for these immigration prisons) of Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, just across the A4 Bath Road north of Heathrow Airport, along with campaigners organised by Movement for Justice, who had come to protest with prisoners inside the immigration prison against the unjust ‘Fast Track System’ and mistreatment of detainees by private security firms.

The were joined outside the prisons by local MP John McDonnell who has a long record of supporting asylum seekers, who told us that when he first became MP for the area in 1997 the immigration detention centre was only a small building housing a dozen or so detainees. Now these two large blocks house several thousands – and their are other large immigration prisons across the country.

After the rally on the pavement outside, the protesters – who included many former detainees – marched onto the site and began to make a circuit on the roadway which goes around the Harmondsworth centre, most of which is enclosed behind tall fences. The stopped at places on the way where they knew that those inside the prison would be able to see and hear them, making a lot of noise chanting and shouting as well as with whistles and other noise-makers.

Detainees are allowed to have mobile phones and the protesters were able to contact a number of those inside, some of whom were able to speak by holding the phone they were calling to a microphone of the protesters’ megaphone. Many inside feel they are forgotten and all had complaints about the way they were treated by the detention centre staff and the poor conditions.

At later events here that I photographed, police prevented the protesters marching around the 20ft fences that surround it, limiting them to an area in front of the administration block. Clearly the tall fences mean there was no security risk, but the sight and sound of the protest was important in raising the morale of those held in the centres – and something those private contractors running the jails wished to avoid in future.

More pictures at Support Detainees in Harmondsworth