Detainees protest at Campsfield House

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Detainees at Campsfield House, along with a number of people from outside the centre, have protested the recent alleged assault of a man at the site.

The Campaign to Close Campsfield has come out in support of the protest, while the director of Asylum Welcome, Kate Smart, commented, “A detainee who suffers from severe epilepsy had an epileptic fit close to the shop within Campsfield. Several detainees witnessed this and were concerned.”

However, she also admitted, “I must stress that I cannot claim this is an accurate account — it is our best guess based on what we can piece together.”

Campsfield House is an Immigration Removal Centre in Kidlington. Last week, a large group of Oxford academics signed an open letter pressuring the PM to close Campsfield, while Cherwell reported from a protest at the controversial centre in October.

The Campaign to Close Campsfield stated that as of Sunday 30th December, 60-100 inmates had occupied the centre’s courtyard to protests against the conditions of their detention. In video footage recorded outside of the centre, protesters can be heard chanting, “England! Hear our voice!”

When asked for comment, the Home Office issued the statement, “We are aware of an incident at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre on Saturday [November 29th] which resulted in an officer sustaining minor injuries.

“No detainees were injured and nobody required hospital treatment.”

In a video, circulated by Asylum Welcome, featuring several anonymous detainees’ testimonies of the incident, recorded via phone calls.

One detainee can be heard stating, “The Campsfield staff have beaten my friend very badly. And they’ve beaten up two or three guys more… My friend is in critical condition at the moment, we’ve called the police up… but they didn’t let the police come inside Campsfield.” 

Another detainee related, “The officer pushed him, and then he pushed him back as well, and the manager said to four other officers here, to beat him up. Five other detainees saw it. They put him down on the floor and they beat him up really badly.”

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One testimony stated that the inmate who had been beaten up was “mentally disturbed”, and that he had been beaten by guards on an earlier occasion. They said, “This is the second time our guy has been beaten up. The first time he was beaten up, he had mental issues. He got mentally disturbed. But this is the second time they have beaten the same guy up. He’s already mentally disturbed.” Detainees report that they are not being allowed to see the injured man.

29 November 2014: Detainees Protest at Campsfield House IRC from Standoff Films on Vimeo.

The protesters’ demands include: permission to see their friend in order to see what happened to him; the release of the (at least three or four) people forced into solitary confinement; the punishment of the guards who allegedly mistreated the detainee; an end to inhuman treatment, deprivation of freedom, and separation from families.

Joanna Hynes, head of Oxford University’s Amnesty International group, said that the event on Saturday was not unusual. She spoke of the problems associated with Campsfield security being run by private firm Mitie, explaining, “This incident is unfortunately not abnormal in a place like Campsfield where basic rights are systematically denied to detainees. Harassment and violence on the part of Mitie staff is part of the everyday lives of these detainees, and with (according to the IMB’s most recent annual report) the vast majority of complaints made by detainees being referred back to the centre to be dealt with internally, there is little hope of holding Mitie staff accountable.

“The detainees who occupied the courtyard on Saturday could be heard chanting, ‘England! Hear our voices!’ — it is about time we listened to their pleas, and stopped shutting away  such abhorrent practices in industrial estates all over Britain to be run by unaccountable private security firms like Mitie.”

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Vera Wriedt, a member of Oxford Migrant solidarity, described the difficulty she experienced trying to contact the protesters. She explained, “When trying to visit one of the people involved in the protest, I was threatened with arrest by the police. A few hours after the protest it was already impossible to get in touch with some of those who spoke out on Saturday, which probably means that their phones were confiscated and that they have been moved to solitary confinement or different detention centres.

“Immigration detention is indefinite and without trial. Article 31 of the Geneva Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees stipulates that ‘states shall not impose penalties … on refugees who … enter or are present in their territory without authorisation’. Nevertheless, detainees are imprisoned in Campsfield House for administrative convenience.”

Cherwell has contacted Mitie for comment.