Shock as another detained asylum seeker takes his own life - Refugee Council
January 27, 2006

Shock as another detained asylum seeker takes his own life

Shock and outrage have been expressed at the recent suicide of Bereket Yohannes, 26, from Eritrea, who died in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre on Thursday, 19 January.

The Home Office have said it cannot comment on the death in the centre until an investigation has been carried out but detainees are already pointing to the difficult conditions within the detention centre as the cause.

The detainees told the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) that Mr. Yohannes was terrified of being deported to Eritrea. He had been at Harmondsworth for only a few weeks and was finding the conditions in the detention centre unbearable, the detainees have said. They also told the NCADC that Mr. Yohannes had expressed suicidal thoughts.

Following his death, the detainees of Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre formed a committee and came up with a list of demands concerning conditions at the centre, which they discussed with the management – United Kingdom Detention Services.

61 detainees signed a joint statement with ten demands concerning conditions at Harmondsworth; NCADC have reported that some detainees have been refusing food, which they will continue to do until their demands are met.

The NCADC have also reported that detainees have told them that those involved with the protest have been moved to isolation (secure cells) or transferred to other detention centres.

The suicide has also sparked outrage in refugee community circles and general public at large. A vigil will be held at 12pm, Sunday 29th January outside Harmondsworth.

Another vigil in memory of Bereket Yohannes, organised by Asylum Aid, Bail for Immigration Detainees and Detention Advice Service is taking place at 6.30pm on Monday 30th January at the Spitz Gallery in London. The gallery is currently showing an exhibition by photographer, Isabelle Merminod called ‘Imprisoned: The damaging effects of immigration detention’. The exhibition highlights the level of suicides inside detention centres of the United Kingdom Immigration Service.

A statement by the organisers of the vigil read “We believe that the continuation of the detention policies of the Government will lead to more suffering and death. Bereket Yohannes’ death is the 12th suicide in detention since the beginning of 2000. There is no information about
attempted suicides.”