Visiting a detainee in Harmondsworth

Hope_Flickr by Photographic Consortium, Ltd

You know I am out of detention at the moment, but I will tell you about having visitors when I was there because I want people to know about this.

Of course having visitor is good and helpful mentally for us. We are here for a long time and even sometimes I think I forget how it is speaking with people or my friends and when I visit my friends I can feel that I change when they are with me.

Normally when a visitor arrives, the officers call us, but when we don’t pick up our phone they would call our room. Sometimes they come to my room to pick me up.

Sometimes they search us to try to find any stuff with us, but normally they take our phone and sometime they don’t let you take any documents to your visitor. Some people don’t have any visitors and they always spend time with other detainees in the detention centre. Some people were moved here from other parts of the country, like Birmingham, so they are far from their family and friends. When I have a visitor I feel so happy because we talk about something new, but here we just always talk with each other about our problems in the detention centre, so that’s why it’s good to have a visitor.

Laura: The first time you come to Harmondsworth, you have to bring 2 forms of ID. Then they put you on the system and log your fingerprint. You get a wristband and visitor pass and they frisk you to make sure you’re not bringing anything in. There are a lot of things you can’t bring in, but even if you can bring it in, you have to check it in, rather than give it straight to your friend. You can’t bring food or drink, and I couldn’t even take T his class photo because it had him in the picture. 

You have to go through 3 secure doors to get to the visitors’ room. Then they log your visit and go and find the detainee. I have waited up to 40 minutes sometimes for them to find and bring him! There is a vending machine in the room, but detainees don’t have cash, so if you visit someone, make sure you bring £1 coins. There’s also a TV and a play area for kids. 

The first time I went, I was really upset afterwards, because the place is so much like a prison. But at least you can sit with your friend and stay as long as you like (between 2pm – 9pm.) The officers leave you alone, but they do watch you on the CCTV cameras. Sometimes it gets really busy. This Sunday I went, and at 6pm when I left, there were about 20 people queueing to be checked in. 

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