A controversial immigration removal centre (IRC) in Lincolnshire, UK is to be shut down. The site called Morton Hall which has seen numerous deaths in recent times will be converted to a prison once more, as it was between the years 1985 and 2011 when accommodating female convicts.
The detention centre is currently managed by the prison service for the Home Office, and is frequently criticised for its harsh regulations and its isolated setting.
“The fact that this place is closing is a huge thing,” said Janahan Sivanathan, a Tamil law student and refugee who was held at Morton Hall for 5 months.
Speaking to The Guardian, Sivanathan said “I was there for almost five months in 2014 and was detained there again for five days in 2015. The treatment by the guards and the bullying I experienced there has had long-lasting effects on me. I went on hunger strike and self-harmed, burning myself with cigarettes while I was in there. The scars on my body remind me of that place every single day. The effets are never-ending.”
The Home Office has stated that the cases of all refugees at Morton Hall will be examined, before being transferred to other IRCs. Additionally, the Home Office has confirmed that the number of detainees will be ‘naturally reduced’ before the IRC turns into a prison, as the majority of refugees will be sent for removal flights, bail hearings or other immigration procedures.
The director of the Medical Justice charity, Emma Ginn responded to the closure of Morton Hall saying “We welcome the news of the ending of immigration detention at Morton Hall.
For immigration detainees it has been a place of misery, self-harm and death. One Medical Justice Client who was detained there described it as a ‘hell hole’. This follows a string of IRC closures over the years, which has proved these IRCs, were never needed in the first place.”
Activists opposing immigration detention argue that the monitoring of refugees in the UK could be accomplished using a more humanitarian manner. The UK is the only country in Europe which does not have a statutory time limit on detention duration.
At present, there are nine IRCs within the UK, as well as two temporary detaining services in Belfast & Manchester. More than 700 refugees were freed from IRCs as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic. In March, a request by human rights activists to release all immigration detainees was refused.
Read more from The Guardian.
Photographs from Shut Down Morton Hall protests.