Over fifty detainees at Campsfield House, an Immigration Removal Centre near Oxford, are reported to have gone on hunger strike this Wednesday. A number of students gathered outside the centre on Thursday night to show solidarity with the strikers.
According to a press release on the Close Campsfield website, “Once again, detainees at Campsfield are on hunger strike. The hunger strike began this morning (7th May) with the simple demand to close all immigration detention centres in the United Kingdom. Detainees believe their detention is a breach of their human rights”. The strike follows similar action in Harmondsworth migrant prison near Heathrow on Friday 2nd and in Colnbrook detention centre on Tuesday. A spokespoerson for the Campaign to Close Campsfield commented, “Our job is to support the detainees, because their voice is more telling on rare occasions it gets out. We call on all people concerned with basic human rights to support them.”
Speaking to Cherwell from inside Campfield, a 27-year-old detainee originally from Pakistan said, “The way we are being treated is a breach of our Human Rights according to organisation such as Amnesty International. I have been kept in the centre for six months — it is like spending half a year in prison when you have committed no crime”.
There has been significant student support for the strike, with a number of students demonstrating outside the centre on Thursday evening. Amnesty International Oxford President Rose Brewin commented of the demonstration, “This evening we gathered outside Campsfield detention centre, to show solidarity with those on hunger strike. Members of the campaign to Close Campsfield were joined by campaigners from Bail for Immigration Detainees, Oxford Migrant Support and Oxford University Amnesty International. We had a very positive response from the detainees, who joined in our chants and reiterated their demand for freedom. However, as migrants are held behind 20-foot high fences topped with barbed wire, we were unfortunately unable to see the faces of the people we were talking to.
Kathryn Hayward, from Oxford Migrant Solidarity, was critical of the centre, commenting, “Immigration detention is administrative not penal. I do not think that it is necessary, just or humane to indefinitely detain people in centres such as Campsfield House solely on the basis of their purported immigration status, as determined by the UK Border Agency. It is well known that there have been suicides, incidents of self-harm and allegations of abuse at Campsfield House and other UK detention centres such as Yarlswood. I fully support action taken by people in immigration detention to highlight the injustice of their situation and to call for change. The treatment of people in immigration detention is unconscionable and ought to be of concern to us all. It is not an exaggeration to say that fundamental issues of justice, liberty and human dignity are at stake. “
Jo Hynes, Oxford Amnesty Secretary, commented, “Immigration detention is a blatant abuse not only of basic human rights, but also of the strong tradition we have in the British justice system that anyone in jail, which is effectively what Campsfield House is, is put before a judge or magistrate before. Immigration detention systematically abuses these rights”.
The demonstration also follows Lincoln College JCR passing a motion to condemn Campsfield. Niamh Healy, who proposed the motion, told Cherwell, “I believe that the conditions in which detainees are held in Campsfield – without charge, without time limit, without proper access to legal representation – constitute breaches of internationally recognized human rights. The UK cannot properly fulfill its international human rights obligations while current levels of immigration detention are sustained.
The motion that our JCR passed on Sunday asks our Head of College, the Rector, to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister appealing for the early release of Campsfield detainees.”
Campsfield House declined to comment.