Statement concerning the death of a man following suicide attempt in Harmondsworth IRC 03/09/17

**CW: SUICIDE, DEATH, STATE VIOLENCE**

28-year old Polish immigration detainee dies after serious suicide attempt at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre this week.

In the same week that BBC’s Panorama revealed the systemic violence and abuse of immigration removal centres in the UK, a suicide has taken place in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, close to Heathrow Airport.  

SOAS Detainee Support (SDS) has received reports from several people in detention that there was a suicide attempt in Harmondsworth IRC on Sunday 3rd September 2017.  Multiple people that SDS are in contact with have told us that a man from Poland hung himself with his mobile phone charger during lock-up after lunch on Sunday, and was taken away in an ambulance.

Since Sunday 3rd September SDS have been trying to obtain confirmation from the Home Office.  Until this afternoon (Friday 8th September) they outright denied that any incident had taken place.  The Home Office press office unequivocally stated to an SDS member over the telephone that there had been no death.

This afternoon, the Home Office have released a short statement confirming that a 28-year-old man has died.  Perhaps the refusal to release any information about this man’s suicide attempt and now death was linked to recent media coverage of immigration detention.  The UK’s already infamous detention centres are under the microscope this week following Monday night’s BBC Panorama.  

This suicide attempt has caused unfathomable distress and anxiety amongst detainees in Harmondsworth, and has contributed further to the creation of a toxic and harmful environment for the 400 men held in this centre.  Many SDS visitors have expressed strong concern regarding the people they are acting in solidarity with – some of whom have not slept or eaten properly since the harrowing incident on Sunday.

That this man at Harmondsworth was made to feel there were no options but to take his own life further highlights the violence of the UK’s detention system.

The abuse, assault, and maltreatment of people in detention has gained increasing visibility over the last few years.  This week’s undercover footage from Brook House aired on BBC Panorama showed the prevalence of suicide attempts and self-harm within detention, as well as regular physical abuse and assault by staff at the centre.

Channel 4 released similar footage filmed in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, where predominantly women are detained, in 2015.

These recordings shine a light on these spaces that are otherwise completely hidden and secretive, states of exception with no safeguards or protections for those inside. What is hard to make visible is the isolation and desolation that detention system seeks to instil in people. Through physical segregation from the outside world, as well as the entrenchment of a culture of disbelief and suspicion regarding those who are detained, people inside are stripped of their agency and made to feel entirely alone. There have been 400 (recorded) suicide attempts in the past year and 29 recorded deaths since the 1990s (excluding this man).

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