Wednesday, 21 April 2010

An unvalued life

[trigger warning for links]

A 40-year old Kenyan man has died in detention at the Oakington "Immigration Reception Centre", after apparently being refused medical treatment. Other than the article linked, there's this piece in the Morning Star, a couple of pieces in local news, and a short piece on the BBC. No other major news sources have mentioned this, as far as I can tell, nor the protests by the other people in detention there.

It's not the first time Oakington IRC has been in the news for mistreatment, either. The centre is run by the private security company G4S on behalf of the UK Border Agency, in the usual way of hiding the accountability in the fine print of the outsourcing contracts.

Yarl's Wood detention centre, also run by a (different) private company on behalf of the Border Agency, likewise has a catalogue of abuse. The surprise nowadays would be to find one that doesn't.

The government defends these places, and refuses to close or completely overhaul them. The principle, presumably, is that asylum seekers claim to have fled an extremely dangerous and/or abusive situation, so won't complain if put in only a very dangerous and/or abusive situation, or perhaps that if the asylum process is made as unwelcoming as possible, people attempting to flee to a "safe" country won't consider Britain "safe".

It's another very stark reminder of how the government and the mainstream media consider the lives of foreign, mostly-BME, mostly-poor people (and there are intersections with other types of discriminations such as ablism and sexism as well) worth far less than the lives of mostly-white UK citizens, and also less than the relatively small increases in costs associated with properly training the staff at these centres, having proper monitoring and accountability to stop abuse occurring, and immediately dismissing and pursuing criminal charges against anyone who does abuse a detainee.

There have been a few civil cases where people subjected to abuse at these centres have managed to get significant settlements from the government as some form of partial compensation - but where are the criminal cases against the abusers themselves, who are presumably able to do the same again.

The media and the far-right parties have managed to create a very racist and dangerous set of attitudes towards foreigners (except the white English-speaking sort) and immigrants, which rather than pushing back against, the more centrist parties, including the allegedly centre-left Labour government, have encouraged and competed with a race to who can be tougher against immigration and asylum seekers.

They would all complain extremely loudly if other countries were to take a similarly abusive approach to the UK's citizens, of course (though it might take something happening to a rich white citizen before anything more than complaints were done). Meanwhile, another person is dead, almost certainly in part due to racism, and nothing will be done.