Two Sudanese men currently detained in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in London have been on hunger strike for 37 days in protest against their indefinite detention, and are determined to continue until they are released. Visitors and human rights activists supporting their cases are extremely concerned for their health.
Tarik Adam Rhama and Ali Abdullah Ahmed began their strike on 22 May in Campsfield IRC (Kidlington, nr. Oxford) but have since been moved to Harmondsworth. Tarik reports that he was subject to torture while imprisoned in Sudan, while a medical examination could not show conclusively that Ali is over 18. Both should therefore fall under UKBA’s category of “persons considered unsuitable for detention.” Their state of health and the fact that neither of their removals is imminent argue further for their release.
Both men are non-Arab Darfuris and are therefore classed by current case law as being at risk of persecution should they be returned to Darfur; Tarik was arrested in 2008 in Khartoum and believes he would be killed if he were to be returned to Sudan. His father is from the Tunjur tribe and his mother is from the Nuba mountains, a region whose inhabitants are currently the target of considerable persecution at the hands of the Sudanese government; upon his arrival in Dover in March 2012, he was immediately detained, then moved to Campsfield, where he began his strike after being in detention without indication of when he might be released for over two months.
There are further complaints relating to inhumane treatment and lack of medical care in detention; an independent doctor’s report described observations of Ali’s vital signs taken by the detention centre during his strike as “sporadic.” At one point, staff at Harmondsworth ignored Tarik’s request for a lower bed when he complained that after 30 days of only water he was too weak to climb up to the top bunk bed he was allocated. He is not receiving regular attention from a doctor, but only from a nurse, despite extreme stomach pain and stabbing pains in his chest, as well as back pain from a pre-existing condition. He cannot walk without difficulty or speak loudly. He is not kept informed of what will happen to him.
Access to legal advice with appropriate translation has also been very infrequent. At over thirty days into his hunger strike, although legal appointments had been conducted with translators present, they had been Algerian or Iraqi rather than speakers of Sudanese Arabic.
Campaigners have vowed to continue calling for both men’s release; demonstrators in London on 30th June participating in one of a number of protests around the world against Sudan’s NCP regime on its 23rd anniversary will also be encouraged to contact the Home Office in support of the hunger strikers’ pleas.
All other Sudanese men who maintained the hunger strike started on 22 May have now been released. Many of the same factors applicable in the cases of those who have been released are also present in Tarik and Ali’s cases. Campaigners say this is a further demonstration of the arbitrary nature of immigration detention and UK Border Agency decision making.