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letter from asylum seeker while in detention
Nkwelle is a human rights activist from Cameroon who fled his country
following his exposure of electoral fraud, after having been imprisoned
five times for his political activity in that country. He came to
England seeking asylum, and was put into detention. While in Rochester
prison he publicised the treatment of his fellow asylum detainees
and was transferred to Belmarsh Prison, Britain's most notorious
top-security jail. With the support of BID (Bail for Immigration
Detainees) he won bail after eight months imprisonment, and upon
release worked as a volunteer at BID helping other detainees.
But days after receiving accolades at the Liberty/Justice
human rights awards in December 2001 his bail was denied, he was
back in detention, and set to be deported on Christmas eve, 2001.
Only hours before he was due to board a plane his lawyers obtained
an injunction giving him time to apply for a judicial review, so
he remained back in detention in the UK. He was then prevented from
being interviewed by the BBC by the Home Office - being told that
'this is not your country'. During his time back in detention he
assisted other detainees in Tinsley House, Harmondsworth and Yarlswood
with their bail applications.
After eleven months in detention he was eventually
released on temporary admission from Yarlswood on the 2nd
February 2002, and since then has continued to work defending human
rights in detention centres, including writing and public speaking.
While in detention he wrote several letters describing
his experiences for distribution to the public - this is one.
Nkwelle Gabriel, TDOB41
Appeal For Urgent Intervention
Fellow human beings, fellow mankind, it is with
great sincerity that I make this desperate appeal for your timely
intervention in the horrifying and pathetic plight of asylum seekers
in UK detained at HMP Rochester, Kent under Immigration Act 1971.
A subjected people have by right under universal
standards and human principles the obligation to seek redress by
any means internationally acceptable. I hold the view that all men
were created equal and by virtue of their existence are vested with
certain inalienable rights to be the sole masters of their destiny.
This has not been the case with asylum seekers
in UK detained at HMP Rochester who from the beginning, because
of their accommodating attitudes, have been slowly stripped of their
human rights. With the oppressors' mechanism of 02/10/00 (HMP Rochester),
now working full time to completely dehumanise and emasculate our
people no matter what means including genocide. It is therefore
time for asylum seekers in Rochester, Kent, and humanity as a whole
to fight back.
Many people may not readily understand or agree
with the reasons why asylum seekers should be clamouring to restore
their rights equally as any other human being.
Asylum seekers detained at the notorious HMP Rochester,
are treated worse than convicted criminals detained at the same
HMP. Asylum seekers are held indefinitely without trial or initial
decision on a claim made. This decision is taken by the immigration
Service which does not explain the decision in detail to the persons
Asylum seekers held at HMP Rochester, Kent, have
fewer rights than suspected criminals and often do not understand
why they are being held indefinitely.
Not surprisingly, this causes mental anguish among
detainees, many of whom have already survived horrendous ordeals
in their own countries. The whole process of asylum seeking and
being detained for a lengthy period of time in UK is extremely humiliating
The way to refugee status is a long road. At HMP
Rochester, Kent, asylum seekers are detained for long periods in
the Echo and Delta wings. Cells are four by four metres - toilet
included - two inmates per cell. The sixty by six metre area in
the middle is for games. Per day you are allowed six hours only
in this area, for eighteen hours you are locked up in your cell.
Echo wing houses one hundred and fifteen whilst Delta about sixty
Being locked up makes you appreciate your freedom.
Out of everything in life, losing your freedom is the hardest situation
to deal with. After months/years of incarceration the following
are mentally deranged. Shi (Chinese), Saglam TDO6SO (Turk), Nwange
(Kenyan), Fal TD0498 (Gambian), Shayanghi TC3178 (Iraqi), Hammidou
Deraji (Algerian), etc.
Inmates had attempted serious self-harm and nobody
cares. Medication is a forgotten issue, if you happen to be sick,
the grave should be your next home. Both medical and wing staff
abuse asylum seekers racially, call them Kunta Kinte and saying
words like ".you all will be deported poor people", and
"black coloured monkeys". It's awful. I can't tell how
awful I feel. The secret self ever more secret, unhappy misled;
"unless you know where you are, you don't know who you are."
In a recent survey of 02/10/00, a Romanian (Kvec
FG 6796) was seriously brutalised by five Echo wing members of staff
(Archibald RCO5G, Brads RC062, S 0 Gamble RCO2O, Henderson RC096
and Mather RCO112) in my presence and others inmates for doing absolutely
Inmates from Delta say that a Kenyan who has been
detained for fifteen months by Immigration Service without trial
roasted himself in his cell on the night of October 5th.
None of the inmates knows his whereabouts as from that night to
date. Life without freedom is a high price to pay.
Asylum seekers are kept in prison without charge,
the sound of doors slamming and the ever constant keys echoing around
the wing, become our early morning wake up. If we are on remand,
when are we going to be sentenced? It's a question without an answer.
Expired food stuffs are always given to asylum
seekers at HMP Rochester. When questioned, you are threatened to
be taken to the segregation unit. On September 25th a verbal system
was implemented by the governor, whereby asylum seekers detained
at HMP Rochester must work seven hours in a workshop job for 0.25
pence per hour. He who refuses, is locked up till those in the workshop
are back in the wing.
Today October 10th inmates are served with the
workshop compulsory memo. For God's sake, where on earth is an adult
human being forced to do a job not of his/her choice and to be paid
0.25 pence/hour? Is it modern slavery? Where are we? Third world
or first world? Some inmates have been trying to draw the attention
of media, but once you are noticed, you are transferred to the segregation
On the day in October I was to publish my appeal
for urgent intervention, a member of education department whose
name was not made known to me, betrayed me in the governor. At about
1310 hours, five members of staff (Whooten, Grimes, Henderson RC
096, Breds RC 062 and Virdler RC 158) rushed into my cell, moved
out my inmate Ndoma TD 0534 to the TV room and seized all the appeal
papers printed ready to be dispatched. That governor Lewis ordered
As a detainee have I not got the right to express
my view to the media?
We leave at tiptoe stance never knowing what to
expect next as thousands of asylum seekers live in internal exile
being continuously hunted for out right elimination like dogs. To
us as people, there can be neither peace nor progress where unrestrained
repression, assimilation, exploitation and human inequality reign
To you comrades, also battling your own personal
hell; I wish you courage and with God's blessings a happy ending
to all your woes. It will also help all of us disadvantaged people,
to get together and aid each other in any way possible.
To all of you, whom God has blessed with justice,
humanity's most cherished gift, human dignity and freedom, help
us, the not so fortunate so we can have a semblance of it someday.
The situation now brewing here at HMP Rochester,
has the potential of making the asylum seekers the flash point of
a dangerous regional conflict. I call on you people to render any
help you can to asylum seekers held at HMP Rochester.
The gratitude of asylum seekers will know no bounds.
God crown our efforts with success and may he bless us all.
If you have any queries concerning the contents
of this appeal, please do not hesitate to contact the writer,
For more information contact
Bail For Immigration Detainees
07833 625 033
28 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LS
To read other letters Gabriel wrote whilst in detention visit http://www.closecampsfield.org.uk/
See also http://www.barbedwirebritain.org.uk/