A disturbing feature of the prison rebellion in Cloverhill yesterday (30-7-2015) was that, if the prison is to be believed, a large group of prisoners took a fellow prisoner as a hostage seemingly because he was a migrant.
Up to 60 prisoners were initially involved in a protest in the exercise yard. 45 agreed to return to their cells while according to media reports "armed themselves with homemade weapons, including razor wire and goalposts" and took Walli Ullah, an asylum seeker who is being held in Cloverhill as a hostage and subjected him to a violent beating.
In calling for his immediate release the Anti-Racism Network Ireland (ARN) says "Two weeks ago, the 21 year old Afghan man was found on the side of the M7 outside Naas. Walli Ullah arrived in Ireland seeking protection, having fled Afghanistan in fear of his life. He arrived in Ireland after travelling for at least three months stowed away in a container. Yet instead of recognising his right to claim asylum and acting on this with due haste and care, inexplicably the authorities have instead held Walli Ullah on remand in Cloverhill prison for the last fortnight. Yesterday, he was taken hostage during a riot in the prison and was subjected to a violent group beating.
"Apparently Walli Ullah’s ‘crime’ is that he is a non-national in Ireland without identification. For this, he has been arrested, appeared in court, been released, only to be immediately re-arrested for the same ‘crime’ and sent to Cloverhill, where he is still.
"A riot broke out in Cloverhill yesterday. During the disturbance, Walli Ullah was taken hostage by a group of prisoners who subjected him to a severe beating during which his arm was broken and his face slashed with a shiv. Walli Ullah is due to appear in court again on August 5th. Until then, he will remain in Cloverhill, a place where he is not safe and where he should not be."
When the 'Control and Restraint' squad armed with riot shields and batons entered the yard almost all the prisoners were injured with 11, we presume including Walli, requiring hospital treatment. The Herald says a "pitched battle" took place. Two other prisoners who had claimed onto the roof came down at 1.30 in the morning.
The prison is not saying why the prisoners launched the protest but the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has suggest the causes lie in "poor conditions and overcrowding" increasing tensions, something the Irish Times says "some staff" also believed. In traditional mode the Irish Times also quotes the always unnamed 'security sources as suggesting the trouble was led by a "member of a notorious crime family"
At this stage it appears the only reports of what happened yesterday are coming from those involved in running the prison. If as it appears from these reports a group of prisoners did decide to attack someone who was in the prison simply for being an undocumented migrant this has very disturbing implications. In particular as this has happened during a media frenzy about other migrants trying to enter the UK by boarding lorries at Calais. Coverage that almost completely focuses on the disruption to trade and which almost never includes the voices of those so desperate that they would risk death in this manner.
The current EU anti-migrant regime is killing thousands every year, most of those through drowning in the Mediterranean. At every level from the Mediterranean crossing to Calais to Direct Provision centres in Ireland EU politicians are keen to maintain a system of death and cruelty as a 'deterrent' to discourage others from travelling. In that context what happened to Walli Ullah is a product of the general dehumanisation of migrants created by our well dressed politicians and journalists now being acted out within our prison system.
As the Anti Racist Network concludes "The plight of Walli Ullah has been highlighted across the Irish media since an interview with his solicitor on Morning Ireland on Monday this week. However, he has received little in the line of compassion in that coverage. Rather than expressing shock at Walli Ullah’s dire circumstances and treatment, the media has played into standard anti-migrant tropes. Media coverage has focused on the supposed ‘strangeness’ of his case; on the threat posed by desperate people trapped in the camps in Calais to truck drivers and to tourism; on this Afghan man’s inability to speak English; on his clutching his holy text to his chest during this terrible ordeal; on the alleged ‘crime’ of a person fleeing persecution not carrying identifying papers.
"It is difficult for those of us who have never had to embark on such a journey to imagine the ordeals that Walli Ullah has faced in his attempt to seek refuge in Europe. Now that he has arrived in Ireland, he has found not refuge but negligence, othering, and multiple forms of violence.
"ARN cannot understand why Walli Ullah’s case is being pursued through criminal courts rather than the proper channels of the protection process.
"Walli Ullah should never have been in prison. He is guilty of no crime, and our so-called humanitarian protection system has completely failed him. We call for Walli Ullah to be set free and for his case for asylum to be dealt with immediately."
The ARN have a press release about Walli Ullah's plight
WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )