Migrants protest in British detention centres

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Migrants protest in British detention centres

By Hazel Healy


Lydia James under a Creative Commons Licence

Bad feelings have brought protests inside detention centres across Britain over the past week. Migrants went on hunger strike and made sit-down protests.

There have been peaceful protests against poor conditions and prison without charge since Friday 2 May in four of Britain’s 10 detention centres – Harmondsworth, Colnbrook, Brook House and Campsfield House. As I write this article, migrants were still refusing food in Harmondsworth in Middlesex, Britain’s largest migrant prison, and in Campsfield House in Oxfordshire.

Musawar Khan is a Pakistani man in Campsfield House. 50 migrants went on hunger strike there on 7 May. He said things are terrible. He is 27 and married to a British woman. He has spent nearly six months in prison behind 10-foot razor wire fence.

‘We want to close all detention centres – they go against human rights. We want our freedom’, he said speaking for the group. Khan says migrants were angry about the terrible treatment of an Afghan man. Home Office staff were trying to make him sign a voluntary return form with the help of MITIE staff, a private company which runs the centre.

But it was the news of the protest at Harmondsworth, which made them act. Over 150 detainees in Britain’s largest detention centre started the protest on Friday 2 May. Migrants here talked about Britain’s asylum ‘Fast Track’. ‘Fast Track’ puts people in prison when they ask for asylum as they arrive in Britain. They are in prison while their requests to stay in Britain are heard..99 per cent are refused.

Protestors stopped the hunger strike on Tuesday 6 May after a meeting was promised with the Home Office. But 200 people went back on hunger strike 9 May when there was no meeting.

Jasmine Sallis is from the Glasgow Unity Centre and has contact with the migrants in prison. She said everyone who signed the letter to protest was refused asylum, were given flights home or made to feel scared.

She says how organizers are doing their best to talk to the migrants in many different language groups. They are also in contact with migrants at Colnbook centre. Here SERCO guards stopped a meeting and put five ‘ringleaders’ into solitary confinement. They took the strikers to other detention centres.

In Brook House, near Gatwick Airport, there are reports that about 20 migrants met in the courtyard and refused to return to their prison cells overnight. Guards put 16 people in solitary confinement. The Unity Centre reports that the migrants here were in fact asking to go home. They were very unhappy about Britain’s policy to keep migrants in prison with no definite time.

Hunger strike is one of the few ways for migrants to protest. About 85 per cent are suffering from clinical depression. Self harm is often a sign of the emotional stress from prison. Over 300 people needed treatment for self-harm in Britain in 2013.

People have held demonstrations outside detention centres to support the protesters.

‘The way people are being treated at the moment is not sustainable,’ said Kathryn Hayward from Oxford Migrant Solidarity visited Campsfield on Thursday 8 May. She said we cannot continue with the way migrants are treated. She said this is not one single thing. We will see more protests like these with new legal aid cuts and new detention centres opening. You can’t continue treating people like this.

Putting migrants in detention centres has become a big problem in the West over the past ten years. There was an increase from 250 to 4,500 in the last 10 years in Britain. Nearly 30,000 migrants were put in prison 2012-13.


Hear a direct message from Campsfield migrants on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABm8hZXn5IA

Follow Twitterfeeds of Unity Centre on https://twitter.com/UnityCentreGlas and Corporate Watch for updates and news on detention centre protests on https://twitter.com/CorpWatchUK

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2014/05/09/migrant-protests-detention-centres/

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).