By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – April 28, 2017) — The weekend saw me again at a local synagogue. This was an unusual occasion. It was a musical presentation by a group who call themselves “Ensemble Émigré” from their research at the Royal College of Music under a project entitled, “Singing a Song in a Foreign Land.”
It was interesting to chat with some of the members of the synagogue. They told me that they were not placed in the camp that the music came from on the Isle of Man. However, they did arrive in the UK on the Kinder Train.
The music came from and celebrated, the occasion of the arrest and internment of those who, in the UK, were referred to as “Enemy Aliens.” We are referring to a group who were mostly German Jews who had run away from the terrible situation in Germany that they saw beginning to overshadow them in 1939. They had run for safety to the UK. They were trying to make a life. Some had offered to serve in the army and to fight Hitler. However, those coming to the UK for asylum and safety were arrested as “Enemy Aliens” in 1940. So, having sheltered for safety and their very life’s sake in the UK, they were now shipped to an internment camp on the Isle of Man somewhere. Later they were then deported to the British Dominions. Many of them were actually killed on the way by enemy action. The ships they were on were torpedoed.
The story deteriorated as the history progressed. Families were separated from each other. Gender segregation was instituted. Men in one camp, women and children in another. One child recalls that she was in bed with a high temperature and suspected flu, when the police arrived. They called a Doctor, who said that she was fit to travel. On the basis of this decision the 8 year old was sent with her Mother, and her small case, to the docks — for transport to the Isle of Man.
To start off the evening, and remind us of what Internment means for these so called “Enemy Aliens,” the first part of the evening expended the time telling us of a team, working in the infamous current internment camps in the UK, such as Yarl’s Wood. This team goes into the camps and, much like what happened in the 1939 camps, they try to bring some hope with music and friendship. We learned things like, and I quote; “In prison, you count the days down to your release. In Internment you count the days up, for how long you have been here”. Similar to 1939, in 2017 many are in these camps for two reasons:
1. They were born in the wrong country.
2. They had tried to run away to a safe place.
So many people do not know about these situations. I have been banging on about it for a long time, even to putting it in my fictional novel “Icejacked.”
Maybe I should recount to you some of the facts.
Fact One: Because a person is not a British citizen, they can be arrested and put in a Detention Centre. Unlike being arrested in a normal or appropriate Policing situation, that person can be kept indefinitely. Some have been in “Detention” for two and even three years.
Fact Two: Some people have been taken directly from British Airports and placed in detention. These people have had no other experience of the UK apart from their internment.
Fact Three: Some in detention were brought into the UK as children, by their family. They assumed that they were British. Yet often, when applying for further education, they are arrested and threatened with deportation to a country they know nothing about.
Fact Four: Eventually two thirds of people placed in detention are released back into the UK
Fact Five: The detention centre is run by a private company. This means that there are people that profit from this programme, meaning that it is to their gain to detain more people.
We have not improved much since 1939 have we?
In the detention centre in the Isle of Man during the Second World War years, people say that apart from the conditions of being in a detention centre, the other side of the story was that it was like being at University. Why? Because many Professors, Doctors, as well as Artisans of all fields and professions were simply arrested and interned – for being “born in the wrong place”. I have personally met people, who have skills that this country needs to use, who have been detained for long periods in places like Yarl’s Wood. GP’s for example. I think we are kind of mad.
Going back to the Musical produced from the music of the Isle of Man centre, they called the production, “What a life…” The advert for the musical was a picture of a man sitting on a crate of porridge, playing a harp made of barbed wire. They, of course, had poetry too, and being an island, they noted the views of the seagull. Here is their comment, the seagulls that is:
The seagulls are in a curious mood
Maybe they are getting too much food.
One thing they all very much deplore
Is the ugly barbed wire that grows up the shore
So in the seagull’s parliament
There was a great debate on that end
And many of them did enquire;
“Why are human beings behind a wire?”
It was a fascinating evening at the Synagogue. However, it does make me wonder why we keep repeating these terrible things. Along with the whole terrible process of detention there have been lots of accusations of sexual attacks in the centre which seriously need investigating. I know that many in the UK have been running protests again the Yarl’s wood detention centre. The protest is called “Time4aTimeLimit” Campaign. This has been running on Instagram, along with protests outside Yarl’s wood. The UK is one of the few nations with an indefinite periods of detention. It needs to change!
Photo captions: 1) Making gloves at an internment camp on the Isle of Man. 2) A security guard stands at the gates of the present-day Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre. 3) Internees and guards along the wire fence sourrounding the Hutchinson Internment Camp on the Isle of Man. 4) My son, Gareth Hawkes, with his Selfie of Protest against present-day internment. 5) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.
About the writer: Adrian Hawkes is married to Pauline — Dan Wooding was best man at their wedding — and they have three children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church north London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some 30+ unaccompanied minors, and vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC Foster Care agency and has launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books, the latest of which is Perspectives — The Alphabet of Life. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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