I feel completely inadequate to describe how the men and their families exist imprisoned in their own homes. I could speak all day and only scratch the surface so I will limit my account to three of my friends – Detainee "A", Detainee B, who I call McGregor, and Bahez. All these men are Muslims.
Detainee A was held under indefinite detention in December 2001, released under control orders in March 2005 and rearrested five months later under a deportation order to Algeria. He was released from Full Sutton in December and is now back at home under house arrest. Detainee A's drastic decision to consider returning to an unknown fate in Algeria rather than watch his wife and children suffer any longer speaks for itself.
He lives with his family under unimaginable stress and hopeless despair. Each time I speak to him he tells another distressing tale. He tells of the time, while alone in his home, his three year old child fell in the garden and cut his head. He couldn’t even go to his child’s aid or arrange a trip to A&E to have his wound stitched. Now he sees his child’s scars as a symbol of his inability to protect his children.
It breaks his heart when his little boy returns from every trip to the supermarket with a leaflet for the zoo and asks to be taken to see the tigers. Under house arrest, "A" can only leave the house for two hours per day and must remain within a small area. "A"feels totally defeated in his attempts to explain his situation to his child.
He told me of the time five uniformed police officers arrived at 3am to check his house. His young children had to be wakened to allow their rooms to be searched. When I spoke to him this evening, he told me that six men wearing bullet proof vests had searched his house again today. The suffering of his wife and children has become unbearable for him.
McGregor was held under indefinite detention in Belmarsh, until he was transferred to Broadmoor Hospital due to the deterioration in his mental health. He was then released under control orders but, after 5 months, was also served with a deportation order to Algeria. When his mental health deteriorated again in Long Lartin's harsh isolation unit, he was returned to Broadmoor. Now he has been once more returned to Long Lartin and is in total despair.
I have known him for three years. He has no family in this country to support him and I consider him my brother. He lost both his parents while he was incarcerated. Unfortunately I never knew the old McGregor, the energetic athlete with a great love of the outdoors, who his friends speak about. I only know the McGregor who is now skin and bone. At the time of writing, McGregor hasn’t eaten for 48 days.
BahezI write to Bahez, a young Iraqi Kurd, who was released from prison in December and put under control orders in an unfamiliar West Midlands town where he knows no one and survives on vouchers. Bahez is only 22 years old and has lived in England for five years.
We write often and he tries to assure me he is in good spirits but he draws unsmiley faces in his letters with tears pouring from their eyes. He cannot write abroad or make calls from a mobile phone or call box so he has no contact with his family in Iraq and constantly worries about them. They must worry about him too as they don’t know his whereabouts.
I was really sad when Bahez told me that he did not even realise it was Eid until he saw the celebration on a television in a shop window. When I sent him a world atlas, he wrote that he had found his unwelcoming town on the map and now knows where he lives! The Home Office has informed him that he will be returned home in a year’s time.
This is Bahez’s life under control orders in his own words:
I am living at the bottom of the earth or I am living on top of the mountains because I am sleeping on the ground. I wash my clothes by hand and I haven't got a TV. I tried to visit a doctor but he was not able to help me as I have no ID. I feel as if I am in a special prison. I haven’t contacted my family for 5 months. I cannot contact my friends. Nobody can come to visit me and I am not allowed to go out after 4pm and I can't do what I wish.
If you in the world hear about freedom in this country and think it is one of the 'justice and freedom countries', I ask you - "Is it for everybody because I don't know this justice and freedom". I never believed I would not have freedom even inside my house. Because at any time they want to enter my house, they do. They don’t care what I am doing – praying or in a shower - and they read whatever I have. I feel just like I am a dead body. I don’t know what will happen to me next day.
This is just a few words of how I feel. If you look at my house and my life, you would never believe it. I have been released from a prison but I didn't know my house would be like a prison to me too. And all this time I am scared they could take me somewhere if they could. So I feel I don’t know what is a life. That is what I am saying to you.