Thursday, June 15, 2006
One hundred and twenty detainees at an immigration removal centre in Oxford, UK, are on hunger strike. The protest started when some detainees refused breakfast on Wednesday 14th June 2006. A letter from the hunger strikers explaining why they are seeking to draw attention to their plight in this way has been reproduced in full below.
Those detained at the centre are mostly men who have sought asylum in the UK and whose asylum applications have been rejected. These people are then held without knowing how long they will be detained for – some end up being held for many years while awaiting deportation.
The removal centre, known as Campsfield, or Campsfield House is approximately 5 miles north of Oxford and has been in operation since 1993. It was managed on behalf of the UK Government by Global Solutions Limited, until may 2006 when it was taken on by GEO UK, the centre has a capacity of 198. Only males are detained at Campsfield.
There have been reports in the UK press of the state taking people to detention centres without notice, in the early hours of the morning using excessively heavy handed tactics, taking children out of schools and separating families.
Many UK people and politicians express their disgust at the way detainees are treated, yet it continues. Perhaps this action by the detainees themselves will further highlight their plight and result in more UK electors writing to their MPs and demanding improvements to the way in which rejected asylum seekers are treated.
“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)”.
- “120 Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike at Campsfield IRC” — Oxford Indymedia, June 14, 2006
- UK Home Office webpage on Campsfield
- Close Campsfield Campaign
- “Dawn raid furore family deported” — BBC, September 29, 2005
- Barbed Wire Britain
- “Asylum seekers on hunger strike” — BBC, July 14, 2005
- “Construction/Building Press Releases” — PR Newswire, Oct 01, 2005