120 Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike at Campsfield IRC

'Campaign to Close Down Campsfield'

Here is a letter which the detainees on hunger strike at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre (at Kidlington near Oxford) have written. They started their hunger strike this morning Wednesday 14th June; 80 of them did not take breakfast, and they estimate that there are now about 120 on hunger strike.

On Monday 12th of this week a Somalian man went onto a roof at Campsfield; he had been detained for four months (probably illegally, since the government cannot deport people to Somalia) and took a rope and a plastic bag with him.

GEO, the new management at Campsfield, asked the police to leave and said they would deal with the matter themselves; we do not know whether they used violence against the Somalian detainee; he has been removed from Campsfield, no doubt to somewhere even worse as is usual in these cases. There have been 12 suicides in immigration detention, and several hundred attempted suicides and cases of self harm requiring medical treatment.

GSL lost the contract to run Campsfield to GEO (Global Expertise on Outsourcing), presumably on cost grounds. GEO took over at the beginning of the month. They have changed their name from Wackenhut, and have a discreditable history of running penal institutions in the USA and Australia. GSL's manager, Andy Clark, who had been more willing than his predecessors to allow volunteers and education classes in Campsfield, decided he could not work with GEO; at least two of the people who ran education classes and workshops have been sacked or left, and GEO apparently intends to provide much reduced hours of education (as required under the contract), run by its own officers.

But of course the most serious problem is not the conditions inside the centre, but the fact that people are detained there who have committed no crime, been charged or suspected of no crime, with no judicial process and no time limit, often with no access to lawyers, and always with great uncertainty about what is happening to them or about to happen to them.

The following is the hunger strikers' letter:

"We are detainees at Campsfield removal centre in Oxford. Most of us have been here for a long while now. There are people who have been detained for up to two years and down to three months. We are cramped in here like animals. We are treated like animals and moved around different detention centres like animals. The immigration service have taken husbands from their families and taken people who ran away from persecution in their various countries, and dumped everyone in here.
Once you are put in here the immigration service forget you. There are detainees who have applied to go back to their own countries that are still being held here for months without any news about their cases, just so that the private security companies get more money.

Detainees are asked to seek asylum and then refused. The immigration service also ask detainees to apply for bail. When you get a bail hearing date all of a sudden they serve you with removal papers that are not valid. There are many of these situations. In most cases the immigration service don't take you to your court hearings. And then they tell the judges you refused to turn up, just so the hearing goes ahead in your absence. Many detainees have been served with removal papers and travel documents but nothing happens on the removal day.

Campsfield has become a slave house. We detainees are treated like slaves, to do odd jobs for officers. Detainees are handcuffed to see doctors or dentists in hospitals or clinic appointments. We have some racist security officers who make racist comments to detainees and go out of their way to make you feel like committing suicide. Detainees have to be at the point of death before they get to see the doctors.

The food is not worth eating. Even dogs would refuse to eat what we eat. But we don't have a choice; every single day we eat the same food (the food we eat is rice, chicken, sandwiches, and left-over eggs)".

Messages of support/solidarity for the hunger strikers can be sent to the Campaign to Close Down Campsfield at teresahayter@onetel.com



June 2006

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