A man with HIV who was awaiting deportation to Jamaica is being denied life-saving treatment in an immigration detention centre, The Independent has learned.
The 42-year-old man relies on daily medication to manage his condition, and says the dosages for his other ailments, schizophrenia and depression, have been reduced by staff at Colnbrook Immigration Centre.
He has lived in the UK for more than 30 years and was detained on Monday after enforcement officers “kicked his door off” and seized him at his home in the early hours of the morning.
The Birmingham resident was scheduled to be deported to Jamaica next Wednesday, but Home Office staff have now said he won’t be removed, following enquiries from The Independent.
“They haven’t given me any medication for my HIV at all despite my asking. I’d usually take one of these tablets every day and it helps me to manage my condition,” the man told The Independent from his cell at Colnbrook prior to the government’s U-turn.
“They’ve stopped my depression tablets completely which I’ve been on for over ten years. For some reason, it’s like they want me to shout and kick off, but I’m not going to do that.”
He added: “You can’t let someone suffer the way they’re making me suffer. What else do I need to do to show them that how they’re treating me is wrong?”
The man also has a heroin addiction and must regularly take methadone to manage withdrawal symptoms.
As a consequence of the reduction in his methadone, he is suffering from severe symptoms. He says that he has been vomiting frequently and has been unable to properly eat and sleep for days.
Seth Ramocan, Jamaica’s high commissioner in London, told The Independent he was making “immediate” enquiries with the Home Office about the case.
This comes after a high court judge ruled in July that the Home Office had failed to put in place systems to protect detainees with HIV, after a man was denied life-saving medication for four days.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, not taking regular HIV medication can allow the virus to grow and can also increase the chance of developing resistance.
The Colnbrook detainee, who has a child, says he is very much British and feared the life that awaited him in Jamaica – a country he’s never been back to since moving to the UK in 1990 aged 11.
The man has criminal convictions, which the Home Office originally considered grounds to deport him, including a drug offence and another for common assault.
“It’s not like I’m a bad person. Yes, I’ve made mistakes but, no matter what I do or how I try to turn my life around, the system still seems to be against me,” he said.
Colnbrook is currently attempting to contain a Covid-19 outbreak, The Independent understands, and the man, whose immune system is already compromised, is worried about contracting the virus – especially when sharing spaces, such as the exercise yard, with people who have coronavirus.
The man’s aunt, 87, told The Independent that she also fears for his safety if he’s deported to Jamaica; moreover, her health is failing and she has always been able to rely on him for support.
“Every time I speak to him, I cry. I think how he’s being treated because he came here as a minor – we are all British. He, along with myself, came to the UK under the British flag,” she said.
“He made mistakes but we all do; if they sent him out, they’re sending him to lose his life.
“I wouldn’t like to see him go to Jamaica because he has no one there. He’s sick, and where is he going to get help, how is he going to live? He has nothing, not even the clothes on his back.
Karen Doyle, of Movement For Justice, said that this wasn’t the first time she had heard of a Black person being denied treatment in a UK detention centre.
“The government like to trumpet that these mass-deportation charter flights to Jamaica have nothing to do with Windrush. That is not true – every flight has contained children and grandchildren of the Windrush generation,” she told The Independent.
“This man is being threatened with deportation to a country where he has no one, no connections, with mental and physical health conditions that make him vulnerable to exploitation. On top of that he will be put on a plane after a week of acute withdrawal from his medications, a weakened immune system, and deteriorating mental health.
“This is simply inhuman and shows the utter contempt and disregard this government has for the Windrush generation, who are still fighting for their compensation, and to the whole Jamaican diaspora; the Jamaican government should be stepping in to protect its citizens, not collude with this unjust, inhuman, racist charter flight.”
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “The Home Office is showing once again that their approach to deporting Black British residents is riddled with cut corners and a disregard for the harm that separation causes to families and children.
“Until the Home Office allows people facing deportation to access appropriate legal advice and accepts that those who grew up here are British in all but name, they will continue to deport people who belong in the UK with their families.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All immigration removal centres have dedicated, 24-hour on-site medical facilities, including access to independent doctors and nurses.
“All decisions, including the prescribing of medication and dosage, relating to an individual’s medical needs are decided by an independent doctor.”
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