Joe recently shared his experiences of detention and destitution in the UK, at DDVG‘s Ex-Detainee Conference. This is his story.
My name is Joe. I would have been due for release from prison on 22 July 2010, but then I was held under immigration powers, even while my deportation wasn’t imminent.
I spent ten months in prison on top of my sentence waiting for transport to immigration detention.
I found the experience of prolonged and indefinite immigration detention very distressing. My mental health worsened considerably since I was detained and continues to do so even since my release.
My mental symptoms were likely to worsen significantly if I remained in detention – the possible consequences to my mental health if I was forced to return to my country of origin.
I have close and sustained relationships with both my children – a girl who will turn 15 in June 2013 and a boy who is 14. Both are British citizens. If I was forced to return to my country of origin these relationships would be disrupted. This would be emotionally devastating for me.
If I was forced to return to my country of origin, I would be tortured and then killed. I was not afraid of being killed but only of the other things they would do to me.
I have a genuine fear of persecution – it is objectively well-founded.
In the light of this, any threat of forced return to my country of origin would significantly worsen my health as I have already severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression.
I would also be unlikely to have the trust and confidence in local mental health services to be able to access the therapy I need. My worsening PTSD symptoms would render me unable to work and support myself.
I made a serious suicide attempt in the past and I had a profound sense of hopelessness while in detention. Both my PTSD and depression are associated with my increased suicidal thoughts while I was in detention.
Other factors such as separation from my country since 1998, the breakdown of my marriage in 2009, and my continuing immigration detention uncertainty, could have caused my complex PTSD.
On this soil
Some people have the mentality that foreigners in detention do not deserve equal rights as other human beings on this soil.
We were treated like criminal prisoners in immigration detention.
Recently I won my judicial review case in the High Court for unlawful detention, even though my evidence and medical reports were ignored completely by the UK Border Agency and even the immigration judges in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, in both the First Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal.
While I was detained, I lodged three bail applications. I represented myself by video link but I was unlucky as the judges turned me down, one saying: ‘I don’t believe one word of what you say’.
Both DDVG and Kent Refugee Help helped me to find legal representation and eventually I was released from detention on 26 September 2012.
Part of the world again
Now I am living on Section 4 Support. People living under Section 4 are forbidden to work, thus depending on vouchers. This excludes them from ordinary society. Even the smallest cash payment would help to make us feel part of the world again.