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Mass hunger strike at Immigration Detention Centres
Sunday October 28, 2012 21:22 by Kruk - Anarchist Federation
73 people detained at Immigration Detentions Centres in Bialystok, Biala Podlaska, Przemysl and Leszowola decided on beginning a hunger strike together. It is not the first protest of detained refugees, but for the first time information about a strike reaches the public. In the past, strikers had been put in isolation and punished in various ways, while the public knew nothing about it.
Detainees’ demands include: right to information in a language they comprehend, right to contact the outside world, right to proper healthcare, education for underage detainees, respect for children’s rights, improvement in social conditions within detention centres, end to abuse and to excessive violence, end to criminalizing detainees.
Refugees decided to strike together, in all Polish Detention Centres, wishing that their voice will not be ignored nor quenched by the centres’ authorities.
In August 2008, 21 Georgians in Biala Podlaska protested against lenghty procedures. In 2010, 37 refugees from the Immigration Detention Centre in Przemysl took a hunger strike demanding improvement in conditions within the centres as well as access to healthcare. In December 2009, a group of 200 Chechens and Georgians took a train to Strasbourg, home of the European Commission and the European Parliament. They wanted to protest against UE refugee policy. Banners they hung in the train’s windows indicated that the refugees were running away from “harassment”, they demand “help” and recognition that “we are human beings”. However, they were stopped on a Polish-German border. Apart from these instances, individual strikes
happen ceaselessly in the Polish immigration detention centres. They are left unsaid and they are brutally quenched by the centres’ guards.
When detainees decided to protest in a form of a hunger strike across Polish Immigration Detention Centres, they passed their demands to be announced, as they follow:
Right to information, in a language we comprehend and in a clear form, on actions being taken and decisions being made, throughout our detenention in a centre, including information on a possibility of appealing to lift a person’s detention in the centre. It is our right according to Articles 89b and 89c of the Foreigners Protection Act.
In reality, verdicts and instructions are translated, but the verdict’s argumentation is not, which in practice makes it highly difficult to make an appeal, and bars us from using law in our defence. Often, even the time to look through the centre’s regulations is limited. In addition, it is rare to receive aid of a professional interpreter while being received into the detention centre, visiting a physician or seeing a psychologist.
Right to contact outside world, either with private or official issues, and to contact non-governmental and international organizations helping foreigners (under Article 89a of the Foreingers Protection Act). In addition, Immigration Detention Centres lack access to telephone directories and to the Internet, which obstructs us from writing requests.
Right to proper healthcare, specialized examination, psychologic care, and interpreter’s presence during examinations and formalities in healthcare facilities.
Right to education, which the Article 70 of the Polish Constitution and the Article 1 of the Education System Act grant to everyone. All persons under 18 are obliged to learn at school. All children on the Polish territory are obliged to receive formal education until they graduate from a junior high school, whatever their legal status might be, including illegal immigrants. In reality, the right to education on the premises of Immigration Detention Centres is an illusion. These facilities do not provide education neither for adults nor for children as required by the Education System Act.
Respect for children’s rights. Detention works specially bad on children, and the Immigration Detention Centres are organized under prison-like rules: adults and children alike are being treated like sentenced criminals. Detainees can enjoy but a poor substitute of freedom, in a form of temporarily limited leaves to an enclosed yard. Conditions in which foreigners stay within the detention centres, break the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights as regards children, as well as the rulings of Convention on the Rights of the Child as regards the right to development, the right to freedom, healthcare, rest and leasure. We demand to stop the practice of detaining children.
Improvement of social conditions in Immigrant Detention Centres. We require that our specific customs, beliefs and cultural identity be respected, and we demand conditions allowing us to avoid feeling downgraded and discriminated. We want recognition of our distinctness from the local community.
End to abuse. Every day abuses happen in almost every Immigration Detention Centre. Mental violence and blackmail against us is a usual procedure. There are cases of physical violence as well as of sexual harassment against women. Disproportional punishments are carried out whenever a rule is broken; it is easy to be sent to an isolated cell, even for a minor tort; other sanctions include having matresses taken away over a day, cell phone confiscation.
Even children are not spared from punishment. When children at one of the centres broke a toy, they were banned from using the playroom, the only friendly space for them, for a fortnight. The Immigrant Detention Centres’ staff exploit the fact, that no information about events taking place within are spread outside. Victims, silenced by anxiety from negative rulings and repressions, fear to speak loud about abuse they experienced.
End to criminalizing. According to the regulations, we are not detained as a punishment, but to have our location controlled. We did not commit a crime, nor do we pose a threat to the security of the state or its citizens.
All the enclosed facilities do not differ from prisons in anything: barred windows, barbed wires, tall walls or the prison regime, limited access to therapy or education, all directly break our basic rights and deepen the trauma most of us experienced in our homelands. Under the Article 88 of the Foreigners Protection Act, a foreigner, whose mental and physical state indicate that they experienced violence, should not be kept in detention. In reality, the state of our mental health is never fairly verified, and every Imigrant Detention Centre holds people (including children) with post-traumatic stressed disorder.”
Last Friday, the Speaker of Seym (the Polish lower-house Parliament), Ms Wanda Nowicka, MP from the Palikot’s Movement party, issued a letter of alarm to the Commander in Chief of the Polish Border Guard, General Dominik Tracz, on the question of the situation in the Immigration Detention Centres, where she wrote: „We are preparing a proposal to nominate a parliamentary team for examining the aforementioned accusations”. Next Wednesday, at noon, October 17th, 2012, Ms Nowicka is going to host a press conference on this issue.
Refugee Protest’s Support Group
+48 506 778 918