A man who came to Britain from Congo at the age of 13 in 2003 has got a rare win for immigrants in Britain. The High Court finally ruled in favour of Sam Louis’ claim following a decade of false imprisonment and legal hostility.
Several years of childhood neglect whilst under the negligence of social services did little to prepare Mr Louis for the dire lack of support he’d receive in the UK. His unassisted attempts, even in his teens, to regularize his status were met with silence. When he was found guilty of a “relatively spontaneous low-level street robbery” aged 20 he had no clue how harshly the previously indifferent British state would come down on him. Given his context, the initial sentence of 18 months in prison seems absurd. Yet, four years later, the Home Office were adamant the gates stay locked, citing immigration concerns.
In April 2015 his captors released him, maliciously, onto the streets in the late evening with no money. His sister was luckily able to collect him, but only a few months later Mr. Louis was reimprisoned in relation to immigration charges in which the tribunal may’ve been “deliberately misled” according to Judge Cotter QC.
Cotter, who oversaw the case of Louis v Home Office said that the extended imprisonment went “beyond mere maladministration.” He described the hostility of the (detention) review process, including “unjustifiable comments” and “inappropriate prejudgment of what the view taken would be even if further evidence was available.”
The Home Office’s attempt to portray Mr. Louis as uncooperative based on trivial matters like the misspelling of his mother’s name looks even more absurd aside the fact that they never contacted Newham Social Services to verify details. Further blame was placed at Mr. Louis’ feet for his actions after developing mental health problems, which wouldn’t have arisen “had the claimant not been in detention” according to Judge Cotter. The chronic and severe mental illnesses he suffered resulted in him being placed on suicide watch and an episode in which guards had to forcefully stop him from putting razor blades in his mouth.
This also represents another case in the story of Britain’s failure to look after children in care. As with many other British public institutions, the blame can’t be lain at the employee’s feet, but at the years of chronic underfunding and profit-focused attitude with which our social services are run. Almost 25% of Britain’s adult prison population have previously been in care, making it one of the most disproportionately incarcerated groups in Britain. The number of children in care has risen 28% during the last decade of Tory austerity, squeezing care homes far past their limits.
Sam Louis’ horrible experience is yet more evidence that the brutality of Conservative rule is not caused by ‘incompetence’, as Boris’ bumbling character and the rest of the cast would like Britain to believe. This group of highly-educated people act forcefully and deliberately to achieve their goals, such as the ruthless creation of a hostile environment for working class immigrants.
Luckily, for once, the Home Office have been officially called out for the horror they inflict on our most vulnerable communities. The size of damages for Sam Louis has yet to be disclosed.
Mally Kakembo, is a member of the YCL’s Wales branch