Posted in Ceasefire
By Matt Carr
On Friday May 2, 150 detainees at Harmondsworth Removal Centre went on hunger strike. The GEO private security firm that runs Harmondsworth quickly responded with repression, breaking up meetings and placing ringleaders in solitary confinement, in an attempt to snuff them out quickly.
By the following week the strike had spread to four wings – more than half the centre, as the detainees presented the authorities with an 8-point list of issues which they wanted resolved. These included an end to the ‘Fast Track’ asylum processing system which keeps migrants in detention while their cases are being heard; the lack of legal assistance in preparing their cases; an improvement in health conditions and the quality of food.
The protest also spread to other detention and removal centres at Colnbrook, Brook House and Campsfield, where 50 people went on hunger strike until the strike was called off on Friday 16. The causes of these protests are not difficult to understand. Last year a report by H.M. Inspectorate of Prisons on Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre found:
“The circumstances of those held at Yarl’s Wood make it a sad place. At best it represents the failure of hopes and ambitions, at worst it is a place where some detainees look to the future with real fear and concern. None of those held at Yarl’s Wood were there because they had been charged with an offence or had been detained through normal judicial circumstances. Many may have experienced victimisation before they were detained, for example by traffickers or in abusive relationships.”
Similar observations can be made about much of Britain’s immigrant detention facilities. According to the Home Office, ‘Detention is used as a last resort. Detainees’ welfare is extremely important and we are committed to treating all those in our care with dignity and respect.’ Virtually every report and every firsthand testimony of what goes on in Britain’s detention centres gives the lie to these claims. What they describe is a pattern of institutionalised cruelty and indifference, of the intense psychological and sometimes physical damage inflicted on men, women – and children – who the state has decreed to be ‘illegal’ or lacking the right to remain in the UK. Continue Reading