YOU might think that the so called Offshore Processing Centre, better known as the prison camp of Manus Island where Australia has housed those seeking asylum, is a long way from Park Inn and Maclays Guest House in Glasgow. It is. It’s 8,384 miles. But the worlds of despair and calculated deprivation created in both are strikingly similar. In fact, they parallel each other.

Park Inn and Maclays Guest House are two of the hotels being presently used by the Home Office contractor Mears Group to “house” people who are newly arrived in Glasgow and seeking asylum.

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I place “house” in inverted commas as the term, as we have seen revealed repeatedly this week, and since the onset of the lockdown, is sanitised. These are places like Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, devoid of hope, and where people ‘‘cry all the time’’.

Park Inn and Maclays Guest House are no longer ‘‘hotels’’. Even the terminology of choice from activists of ‘‘hotel detention’’ sanitises what is happening in both in the City of Glasgow and in other places across the UK and around the world.

The language used for such places is telling and not accidental. On Manus they were called Offshore Processing Centers. The Mears Group website states: “We are contracted by the Home Office to provide housing and support services to asylum seekers in Scotland.”

So it is to poets and philosophers we must turn for language to describe the horrors occurring in our city

Anodyne, non-language which tells you nothing of the cruelties and deprivations in the places where people are now forced to live. Like the use of the term “collateral damage” to describe the killing of civilians during the war in Iraq, anodyne, non-language is the way those in power chose to mask their “necropolitics”, their politics of death.

So it is to poets and philosophers we must turn for language to describe the horrors occurring in our city, and to help us understand what is happening across the world, to those who dare to claim their rights.

Necropolitics, or the politics of death, is a term developed by the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe. It accurately describes what we are witnessing in the conditions at hotels such as Park Inn and Maclay’s guest house, where deaths of asylum seekers have occurred. It also describes well the conditions in occupied Palestine, Australia’s detention centres, the treatment of separated families in the United States and the FRONTEX actions of the European Union as it turns back boats in the Mediterranean to Libya.

Mbembe uses the term necropolitics “to account for the various ways in which, in our contemporary world, weapons are deployed in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead.”

In his work Mbembe traces the development of these unique forms of control which create contexts of a living death:

- Lives on hold;

- People in a permanent state of despair and hopelessness, trapped in bureaucratic intransigences, in procurement and contracting processes;

- In weasel words and audit trails, in administrative procedures and minute ways of ensuring the audit trails do not lead to the perpetrating systems.

These are the repeating hells of attempts to reach safety, where, when safety is thought to have been reached, it is ripped away again; when the washing is in the machine, and the dinner is on the stove, and Mears turns up to take you from your new home to hotel detention, under the auspices of their Home Office contract.

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The effects are deathly. Living death. We see the hand of these same structures in the death rates among disabled people trying to navigate Universal Credit, that system of dehumanising punishment meted out against those who need assistance with living day to day. We see it in the creation of the rape clause. Again, just note the language. ‘‘Credit’’, ‘‘Universal’’, ‘‘Clause’’.

Such systems are violent and clever. They are human-made. They cover their tracks. The violence they produce is reproduced within the population they claim to be ‘‘supporting’’; it regularly produces self-harm; epidemics of depression and mental illness; suicide. This is when it manifests inwardly.

Suicide rates in Australia’s detention centres are catastrophic. Deaths in our own detention centres are a regular and repeating occurrence.

This violence can also manifest outwardly, in rage, anger, and desperation. This is why there is such an outcry of repeated warnings from all those working to try to give succour to those presently experiencing the conditions produced by the Home Office’s procurement policy. We all want everyone to be safe. This is a group of people who are not granted the conditions in which to ‘‘stay safe’’.

The disputed contracts are designed, according to the National Audit Office report into Asylum Accommodation, to provide “value for money”. The report was published on Friday and its findings are no surprise.

These systems are terrifying for human beings caught up in them, either by accident or by design

The recommendations amount to fiddling while Rome burns. For example: “encourage the AIRE [the support helpline] and accommodation providers to automate links between their systems, to more efficiently resolve supported asylum seekers’ issues”. The last thing we need is more automation. Anyone working in the system knows that this is a radically ineffective way of actually dealing with the effects of necropolitics. But that, I believe, is the point.

This is a new and peculiar version of psychological warfare. It puts people in danger, not once but all the time. As we saw on Friday last week. Six people seriously injured, two hotel workers; a policeman; three people who were seeking asylum and one asylum seeker, the attacker, shot dead. The inaccurate reporting during the unfolding crisis on Friday, June 26 contained an accuracy, and everyone knows it – that these systems are terrifying for human beings caught up in them, either by accident or by design.

The reluctance to make any changes to the aim of “value for money” rather than “value for lives” in contracts suggests that this is by design.

BEHROUZ Boochani is the poet, journalist, philosopher and author of the multi award winning book No Friend but the Mountains, a witness description of Manus Island and its system of detention. Behrouz wrote the book by typing it out on his phone in text messages, for his colleague Omid Tofighian, who translated it. It is utterly compelling.

He describes in minute detail the underlying logics of the system in which he experienced the full horror of the living death that is the asylum system in Manus Prison. As I said at the outset, this parallels the way the contracting of provisions also works in Glasgow.

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It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t need varieties of restraint and deprivation, of cruel and unusual treatment if we have as an aim of the asylum accommodation provision in the UK that it will ensure a safe, calm, dignified environment as people have their claims decided in safe, calm and just ways. When the aim is “value for money’ however, when kindness cedes to capital and rights to retributions for having had the courage to claim those rights, then necropolitics ensues.

On Wednesday Refugees for Justice launched their Manifesto in Glasgow. A smart, determined, compassionate, intelligent, highly articulate collective with vast lived experience of the system.

It offers hope and a fresh, compelling voice. It calls for justice. Justice as public inquiry, as investigation, as an end to this way of treating human beings. Ultimately the system has to change to prevent endangering more lives. No amount of depositing of clothes and phone chargers or even heartfelt welcomes or ‘more automated helplines offering value for money’ can mask this rotting hulk of an asylum system.

In an independent Scotland, when it comes, let’s ask Refugees for Justice to show us how to build an asylum system with justice and people at its core.