Sunday, July 5, 2009
Above: Harmondsworth Removals Center in West London, recently taken over by GEO, the same company that runs Guantanamo Bay.
Way back in 2006, Harmondswroth Removals Centre near Heathrow Airport, West London, was dubbed "Britain's Answer to Guantanamo Bay" by Peter Tatchell on Harry's Place.
The allusion to Guantanamo Bay was way over the top. Harmonsworth has been run like a 3 star tourist hostel in Cuba, complete with censored Internet access and bugged phones in every room, rather than a torture center or anything close.
However on 29 June Harmonsworth Removals Center became a lot more like Guantanamo Bay. Management of the facility was taken over by the private prison and concentration camp corporation GEO; the evil people who run Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
How this atrocity has been allowed to happen on British soil is a mystery, but neither the staff or the detainees at Harmonsworth are impressed by the style of the American torture company so far:
• GEO's arrival was heralded by the removal of hot/cold water machines in the detainees dining room and the staff office. "By Order". No tea for breakfast! Don't they know this is London? Plus no cold water on what was a very hot day. The six vending machines disappeared like protesters in Iran, along with their free cold water spouts.
• Then some items in the prisoner's shop doubled their price overnight. This is a form of torture by capitalism obviously used by GEO to get round the Geneva Convention.
• Then they claimed their first GBH victim. An Indian law student was brutally beaten during an illegal deportation attempt. They came for him at night and told him he had a flight. He still had an ongoing case, but they refused to listen. So he, as was his right, struggled. He was beaten so badly that the pilot of the plane refused to take him. He came back and spent the night in hospital.
GEO's record is not good. It is not bad. "Bad" is much too light a word.
Dickens County Correctional Center in Texas is run by GEO. The prison was described last year as "the worst facility I have even seen" in a report by the Idaho Department of Correction's Health Director. And that is not a light honour. Not just bad. "Worst". And worst in a country where you really have to work hard to be worst.
Prediction: protests by detainees, possibly supported by the staff, against GEO management at Harmonsworth can be expected in the near future. One thing that may well spark it all off is the use of dogs against Muslim prisoners in Harmonsworth. This GEO did last Tuesday, and again on Wednesday.
If the Devil had enough cash, GEO would turn the whole planet into a private prison.
• Yarl's Wood IRC, London: Mothers & Fathers on Hunger Strike