We are confronted today with the Orwellian Doublethink of a Home Secretary who says, on the one hand, that slavery is hidden “in plain sight” across the UK today and that she makes it her “personal priority” to tackle it, and, on the other hand, that she will not release from administrative detention a Nigerian asylum-seeker who has been on hunger strike for nearly 100 days.
The Guardian reports of Nigerian – Ifa Muaza, aged 45, that “The Home Office has issued an ‘end of life plan’ to a detained failed asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days and is said to be near death.”
It seems that Theresa May deems it right for women held captive as domestic slaves in a flat in London to be freed with the help of The Freedom Charity. It seems she sees nothing wrong in locking up immigration detainees in indefinite administrative detention in centres from London to Larne, even when their lack of freedom equates to a death sentence.
I used to visit detainees in the Harmondsworth centre where Mr Muaza is held, I got to know detainees whose lives were on the line through hunger strike, knew of detainees who killed themselves in detention and witnessed the very high level of desperation from many incarcerated in the “removal centres” for no reason other than having sought asylum in the UK.
My friends visiting the centres and I more than once shared our hope that the practice of the State detaining immigrants would one day be looked upon with the same shame, horror and universal condemnation with which we now consider slavery: slavery, which had once, in the same way, been the common practice of the day and the way that things were done. I still hold this hope but it looks as though this will come too late for Mr Muaza which is deeply tragic.
Current day border control remains the most brutal form of States’ assertion and enforcement of a politics of exclusion and segregation which, in its essence, is based on the prohibition of human freedom of movement. Its public imagery should not be the benign pictures that we see on governmental websites, of a civil servant checking a passport at a clean desk, but should be its real images: those poor people drowning off Lampedusa and the coasts of Europe having risked life and limb to make their way to a better life from Sudan, Somalia and other countries; children and their parents forced to remain hidden away from education and medical care once here because they have a real fear that if their lack of immigration status comes to light they will be deported back to a life where they have nothing – or very little – or face persecution or death.
And yet also the many immigrants who have not fallen victim to this ruthlessly victimizing system, who have survived it somehow – using the creativity of their human resources – in solidarity with each other and with us.
It does not surprise me that the British government is willing to defend the racist system of border control to the death of Mr Muaza. It saddens and outrages me that the racist system of immigration control still exists and is upheld whatever the means, whatever the human cost.
The Guardian, The Independent and other online newspaper articles from 25/11/13 and week prior.
From The Guardian courtesy of AFP/ Getty Images: An aerial view of a 2006 protest at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre, where the Nigerian man is being held.