Living conditions at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) are said to be deteriorating rapidly, so much so that sources closely linked to the facility are describing it as a living hell.
They say the facility, located along the Eastern Main Road, Aripo, continued to be affected by the absence of an air condition system, leaking roof, defective surveillance cameras and a faulty electronic gate, which, for the longest while, was being operated manually.
Further, they complained that the food given to the detainees lacked variety and was not even “fit for dogs.”
Established by the Patrick Manning-led People’s National Movement Government in November 2009 to curb the problem of illegal immigrants in the country, the IDC shot to national prominence in January 2016 when workers complained about chronic overcrowding, unsuitable living conditions and fears of a potential health threat at that time.
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon visited the facility, one month later, to get a first-hand account of the situation and promised to look into the concerns of both workers and detainees, particularly overcrowding. And while there has been a marked reduction in the number of detainees at the IDC, sources said many of the other problems persist.
Newsday understands there are now 73 men and 18 women currently detained at the facility. They comprise mostly Jamaicans, Russians, Haitians, Vincentians, Venezuelans, Grenadians and Chinese nationals.
One source said the complaints of the workers and detainees appear to be falling on deaf ears.
“Dillon only paid lip service and management is not saying anything,” an irate source said.
He claimed the absence of an efficient air condition unit was causing serious discomfort to both staff and detainees.
“It has not been operational for about five years and this has caused many of workers to sick-out because they are uncomfortable. Only the manager’s office has air condition,” one claimed, adding the manual fans were blowing hot air.
He said the problem was particularly acute in the visitors’ lounge.
“This is an international place and when people have to come and visit the detainees, they get soaking wet because of the heat,” he said.
He claimed the leaking roof also posed a major inconvenience as the detainees’ beds often had to be shifted during heavy rainfall.
Another source said the detainees’ diet left a lot to be desired.
“The food is poor, not even fit for dogs and the caterers are getting big money. On mornings they get two hops bread and either butter or cheese paste and for lunch, macaroni and chicken nuggets and a small Orchard drink. This is what they get everyday.”
He claimed workers have dubbed the macaroni and chicken nuggets meal the “Road March Dinner” by virtue of the frequency with which the detainees receive it.
He claimed the detainees were poorly treated.
“They order slippers for them and there are no proper sizes. You have people with big feet wearing small slippers.”
He also claimed workers sometimes had to take money from their own pockets to assist detainees with trips to their native countries when they are released.
“I think the Government should consider giving some kind of pardon to the detainees and just send them back to where they come from. Some of them have been here (IDC) too long.”
He claimed a Nigerian national, believed to be in his late 30s, is the longest-serving detainee at the IDC.
“He has been here for about five years and he speaks seven different languages and has seven different passports. But that is not our business. Send him back to his native country.”
Sources are also calling on the authorities to address the disparity in salary between Special Reserve Police officers at the IDC and those working under the TT Police Service.
“An SRP usually get $7,000 a month but those at the IDC only get $5,000. So, something has to be wrong with that,” one said.