Immigration detainees launch hunger strike against treatment
By Paddy McGuffin
Morning Star (U.K.), August 3, 2010
Over 100 detainees at the Campsfield House immigration removals centre in Oxfordshire began a hunger strike on Tuesday over conditions at the centre.
Campsfield House has been condemned by campaigners and human rights groups in recent years over allegations of abuse and indefinite detention.
Officials at the UK Border Agency confirmed they were 'monitoring' the situation at the centre after detainees refused their meal on Monday night.
Border Agency deputy chief executive Jonathan Sedgwick said: 'We can confirm 108 detainees have refused prepared meals from staff yesterday evening.
'However, they still have access to food from the on-site shop and vending machines.
'Staff are monitoring the situation closely and listening to the detainees' concerns. All detainees have access to legal representation and 24-hour medical care.'
But a statement issued by the detainees themselves said that 147 people had taken the drastic action in a desperate bid to highlight their suffering at the centre.
In particular the strike was aimed at exposing the length of detention of detainees – many of whom have been held for over three years – the deprivation of family life, mental stress and anguish, abuse, negligence and forced removal when legal recourse remained open to detainees.
In 2008 around 60 detainees took part in a week-long hunger strike over forced removals.
A statement received by the Star on Tuesday said: 'One hundred and forty seven detainees are staging a protest by refusing meals at Campsfield immigration removal centre. The protest erupted as a result of the treatment of detainees in detention centres, especially for people who have been detained for a long period of time.
'We continue to refuse meals indefinitely for our voices to be heard. Some of us detainees have been detained for over three years with no prospect of removal or any evidence of future release. There is no justification whatsoever for detaining us for such period of time.
'Our lives incidentally have been stalled without any hope of living a life, having a family or any future. More often than not, we are being detained even when our wives and children are resident in the United Kingdom, depriving us of having a life with our family. We the detainees are also humans.'
The detainees also allege that they have been 'tortured, restrained, strapped like animals and beaten to effect removal.'
A spokesman for the Campaign to Close Campsfield said the desperation of those taking the action 'exposed, yet again, what is wrong with locking up people who are not serving sentences for committing a crime and have no time limit on their incarceration.'
A spokeswoman for Medical Justice, which has monitored detainee's health at the centre, said: 'It's no surprise that detainees are on hunger strike.
'Independent doctors have visited detainees who are imprisoned despite not being accused of any crime. The damage to mental health of prolonged and indefinite immigration detention that the doctors have seen is so extensive that the only solution is to close these detention centres down.'