Ukrainian asylum seeker, 42-year-old Mikhail Bognarchuk, was found hanged by his shoelaces in a toilet at Haslar Removal Centre on 31 January.
He was due to be deported that day to the Ukraine – a country with a questionable human rights record. A Home Office Country Assessment Report on the Ukraine states that ‘police and prison officials regularly beat detainees and prisoners, and there have been persistent reports that Berkut (special militia units or riot police) troops beat and torture inmates as part of regular training exercises.’ Ironic then, that Mikhail met his death in a British prison.
The Haslar Centre’s sole purpose is to hold asylum seekers pending their removal. It is a place of no return. Haslar, formerly a prison, became Haslar Removal Centre on 8 February 2002 and is run for the Immigration and Nationality Department by prison service staff.
Michael Woolley of the Haslar Visitors Group told IRR News ‘we regularly hear reports of self-harm’. Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) estimates that there have been at least 10 serious self-harm attempts at Haslar since it became an immigration removal centre.
In September 2001, 75 men went on hunger strike at Haslar to protest at their imprisonment. One refugee commented ‘some people escaped cruel regimes. But we are treated like criminals yet we have committed no crime.’
The IRR’s research shows that since January 2000 at least nine asylum seekers have taken their lives because their asylum claim had been refused.
Asylum policy: the human cost
- 7/5/02, Shiraz Pir, (25) Afghani, living in Bristol for eighteen months in hostel accommodation, was found hanged, but still alive. He died five days later in Bristol Royal infirmary. His application for refugee status was refused. At the inquest the coroner criticised the Home Office delay in dealing with his asylum application.
- 12/3/02, Mohsen Amri, (27) Iranian, who took his own life at his home in Handsworth, Birmingham. He had been in the UK for two years and made repeated requests for work permits (he did not want to work illegally) but had been refused. His asylum application was refused on a technicality.
- 1/1/02, Souleyman Diallo, (28) Jumped 100 feet to his death from Redheugh bridge, Tyneside because he was to be deported back to Guinea.
- 21/8/01, Nasser Ahmed, (36) Eritrean, dispersed to Nelson, Lancashire found hanged after his asylum claim was refused. A friend of his claimed that he was ‘very afraid’ of being sent back.
- 20/1/01, Unnamed Kosovan, He was discovered on a ferry travelling from Ostend to Dover. At Dover he was put back on a ferry to deport him to Calais and he jumped from the ship to his death.
- 18/1/01, Ramin Khaleghi, (27) Iranian, dispersed to Leicester, took his own life after his asylum claim was refused.
- 21/12/00, Saeed Alaei, (26) Iranian, dispersed to Nelson, Lancashire, found hanged after his asylum claim was refused.
- 24/01/00, Robertas Grabys, (49) Lithuanian found hanged in Harmondsworth detention centre.
- 2000, Glynnis Cowley, South African mother of three who took her own life after her asylum claim was refused.
- 12/98, Lin Yan-Guang, Chinese asylum seeker who committed suicide in Warley hospital, Brentwood, Essex.
- 07/98, Sofonias Alemsged, (22) Eritrean with psychological problems who had made previous attempts to commit suicide was found hanged in Brixton prison just weeks before an appeal on his asylum claim.
- 1998, Mehretab Kidane, (28) Eritrean who committed suicide on the final day of his asylum appeal hearing because he was so afraid of being sent back.
- 25/8/95, Muttavel Vasanthan, (25) Sri Lankan found hanged in his cell at Norwich prison. Muttavel had been held for four months.