Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 2 November 2016

My time in a detention centre

"I was encouraged to work - for 1 an hour"

Tamil Solidarity activists marching for refugees' rights, 17.9.16, photo Senan

Tamil Solidarity activists marching for refugees' rights, 17.9.16, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

Tamil Solidarity activist Nandan, who recently spent several weeks in a Home Office detention centre, spoke to the Socialist about his experience of organising against the exploitation of inmates and the campaign to fight for refugee rights.

I came to the UK to study in 2011. But in 2012 my previous political activity, campaigning for the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka and organising students, caused me problems. The then Sri Lankan government of warmonger Mahinda Rajapaksa made accusations against me and the financial support I relied on stopped. I claimed asylum and changed to studying part time.

Because of a lack of understanding and problems with translation, my case was refused. I appealed. Until then I had avoided politics in Britain, fearing it could cause me problems. But problems came anyway and so I started attending meetings. At a book launch in East Ham I met Tamil Solidarity. They stood out as a group because they said the only way to win our rights is to fight for them and because they were democratic.

I was arrested. I had committed no crime but I was held in custody for one day as there was no transport to take me to the detention centre. They said it wasn't a prison but it felt like one. They said I could do whatever I wanted but we went through six or seven locked doors to get to the box I was locked in until 8am.

I could have a phone - but not if it had a camera on it. There were books to read - but nothing interesting and definitely nothing political. I could have 50 minutes internet - but no access to social media. I could watch news - BBC, but not Al Jazeera.

Friends were not allowed to bring me food or toiletries. There was plenty of food but portions were limited. I was so hungry. They said I could buy more but I had no money. They told me to work. Outside I was banned from working but inside I was encouraged to work - for 1 an hour. We could clean, garden, cook, launder, work in the library.


Initially when I was detained I felt hopeless - that this was the law and there was nothing I could do.

But my experience helped me realise that this system is not for us, that it's true we have to fight for everything, for our rights - not only in my country but here too.

While I was there I saw at least two people a day brought in and it made me think that there's payment per detainee for the private company running the place. Not only is this unjust, it is also profiteering.

So I started to discuss with some of the others about our right to earn the minimum wage. It was difficult to organise a campaign - there's CCTV everywhere and if you gather in groups they ask what you're talking about. So a few of us chatted with people during work about a strike.

Me and the other four leading activists in this struggle were released before the strike could be fully organised. But I continue to build the struggle for refugee rights - raising the demands for the right to work for refugees and the closure of the detention prisons.

The Refugees Rights Campaign is an umbrella organisation, involving Tamil Solidarity and others. It demands that refugees be allowed to work and an end to deportations. Speakers from the campaign will lead a workshop forum at Socialism 2016

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 2 November 2016:

What we think

Corbyn movement must seize initiative - or face defeat

Socialist Party news and analysis

Fight for decent jobs for all

Fight the 'burning' of our museums and libraries!

Battle of Orgreave: Establishment cover up continues

One third of 2010's new teachers have already quit

We are all Daniel Blake: no more deaths from benefit cuts

LGBT people need militancy, not false 'allies' like David Cameron

What we saw

Refugee solidarity

Solidarity with refugees

Demolition of Calais 'Jungle' camp - eyewitness report

My time in a detention centre

Socialist Party youth and students

Mass student strike rocks Spanish state

Glasgow School of Arts students "let us learn" revolt

International socialist news and analysis

EU-Canada trade deal battle points to Corbyn's Brexit opportunity

Environment and socialism

Heathrow expansion exposes Tory divisions

Socialist Party feature

Will workers on company boards make bosses accountable?

Workplace news and analysis

Sheffield bin workers' action strengthens in numbers and mood

Solid Southern strike continues against Britain's 'worst' train company

Newsquest strike: "It's impossible to do our jobs"

Outsourced ambulance workers strike in Tooting

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Glenfield heart unit closure: Over 1,000 march

Massive demo against A&E closure

Campaigners call on Greenwich council to oppose the Housing Act

Haringey care services face ruthless cuts and privatisation

Teaching assistants stage vigil and rally

"Our problems cannot be solved by capitalist politics"


Home   |   The Socialist 2 November 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleVienna: 50,000 march against racism and austerity

triangleSweden: School strike against deportations

triangleRoyal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system

triangleInterview: Refugee Rights Campaign

triangle40% of England's psychiatric wards are 'unsafe'


triangleVictory against government's war on eastern European homeless

triangle4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

triangleHundreds of torture victims wrongly detained

triangleHunger strikes, suicides - end detention now

Tamil Solidarity:

triangleFacebook sides with state repression - reinstate the Tamil Solidarity page

triangleTamil youth march for justice

triangleProtesters denounce oppressive Sri Lankan regime


triangleTamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting

triangleTamil Solidarity AGM & public meeting


triangleHull workers united against bosses


triangleRefugees march against racism and to demand rights


triangleUCU strike: staff and students unite to continue pensions fight after magnificent 14 days of action


triangleTamil Solidarity demands refugee rights

Sri Lanka:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Mahinda Rajapaksa:

triangleSri Lanka: spotlight on a blood-stained regime


triangleThe Socialist inbox


triangleRate of black imprisonment worse than US

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Hands Off HRI campaign granted judicial review



Refugee Rights to be launched in Manchester



Over 1,000 on Newcastle NHS march


Socialist Party

Why I joined: 'The Socialist Party is at the forefront of defending Corbyn's anti-austerity leadership'


Socialist Party

Past fund-raising campaigns show dedication to the fight for socialism


May Day

Ideas matter: help us fight to win with May Day greetings



Refugees march against racism and to demand rights



Unions condemn 'culture of bullying' at Merseyside hospital



Hull college workers ballot for action against mass redundancies



Strikers and parents rally again in Newham against academies



Hinkley workers win back unpaid wages after sit-in protest



UCU strike: staff and students unite to continue pensions fight after magnificent 14 days of action



Walkout from undercover policing inquiry



Hated Blairite mayor ousted: now fight for a no-cuts Newham!



NSSN conference moves

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018