GEO, the new management at Campsfield, asked the police to leave and said they would deal with the matter themselves; we do not know whether they used violence against the Somalian detainee; he has been removed from Campsfield, no doubt to somewhere even worse as is usual in these cases. There have been 12 suicides in immigration detention, and several hundred attempted suicides and cases of self harm requiring medical treatment.
GSL lost the contract to run Campsfield to GEO (Global Expertise on Outsourcing), presumably on cost grounds. GEO took over at the beginning of the month. They have changed their name from Wackenhut, and have a discreditable history of running penal institutions in the USA and Australia. GSL's manager, Andy Clark, who had been more willing than his predecessors to allow volunteers and education classes in Campsfield, decided he could not work with GEO; at least two of the people who ran education classes and workshops have been sacked or left, and GEO apparently intends to provide much reduced hours of education (as required under the contract), run by its own officers.
But of course the most serious problem is not the conditions inside the centre, but the fact that people are detained there who have committed no crime, been charged or suspected of no crime, with no judicial process and no time limit, often with no access to lawyers, and always with great uncertainty about what is happening to them or about to happen to them.
The following is the hunger strikers' letter, which of course they would like to have published:
"We are detainees at Campsfield removal centre in Oxford. Most of us have been here for a long while now. There are people who have been detained for up to two years and down to three months. We are cramped in here like animals. We are treated like animals and moved around different detention centres like animals. The immigration service have taken husbands from their families and taken people who ran away from persecution in their various countries, and dumped everyone in here.
Once you are put in here the immigration service forget you. There are detainees who have applied to go back to their own countries that are still being held here for months without any news about their cases, just so that the private security companies get more money.
Detainees are asked to seek asylum and then refused. The immigration service also ask detainees to apply for bail. When you get a bail hearing date all of a sudden they serve you with removal papers that are not valid. There are many of these situations. In most cases the immigration service don't take you to your court hearings. And then they tell the judges you refused to turn up, just so the hearing goes ahead in your absence. Many detainees have been served with removal papers and travel documents but nothing happens on the removal day.
Campsfield has become a slave house. We detainees are treated like slaves, to do odd jobs for officers. Detainees are handcuffed to see doctors or dentists in hospitals or clinic appointments. We have some racist security officers who make racist comments to detainees and go out of their way to make you feel like committing suicide. Detainees have to be at the point of death before they get to see the doctors.
The food is not worth eating. Even dogs would refuse to eat what we eat. But we don't have a choice; every single day we eat the same food (the food we eat is rice, chicken, sandwiches, and left-over eggs)".
Messages of support/solidarity for the hunger strikers can be sent to:
Campaign to Close Down Campsfield
For more information please contact:
Teresa Hayter or Bob Hughes on 01865 726804, 07968 292499
or Bill MacKeith on 01865 558145.
PROTESTS HAVE CONTINUED AT CAMPSFIELD Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) north of Oxford with a yard-occupation last night by 25 inmates lasting until 5 am this morning, constantly-changing numbers refusing food at mealtimes, and sporadic violence.
Last night, a candlelit demonstration of support was called at short notice. 25 Oxford University activists and members of the Campaign to Close Campsfield met an awesome response from the accommodation block with loud, enthusiastic chanting and drumming in response to our songs and chants. Candles were left burning along the perimeter fence.
Today, the hunger-strike and food-refusals continue. Bizarrely, we hear that guards are trying to bribe detainees back to the dinner-table with £10 vouchers (up from £5 yesterday) and £30 for anyone who will help them identify the food-refusers (presumably, the guards can't tell one black face from another).
One detainee told the Oxford Mail:
"At the moment they think we will crack, but they will not break me. If they try and move me from here to another centre I am not going to go. I am going to fight them for as long as I can. If I have to commit a crime to get attention I will.
"I know definitely there are about 10 others who are prepared to go all the way. I have got to take this to the end, I would rather die here than get tortured to death back in my own country."
GEO LTD - TURNING A HUMAN-RIGHTS CRISIS INTO A CATASTROPHE
The unrest follows hard on the heels of Campsfield's takeover, on May 29th, by GEO ("Global Expertise in Outsourcing" - the private US prison company previously known as Wackenhut). Inmates have told supporters that the protests are not specifically against GEO, but GEO's cheap, tough approach seems to have proved the final straw for innocent men, driven desperate by protracted, systematic abuse by the government.
A legal adviser who has clients in the centre told us today "you wouldn't believe a place could change so much in just a couple of weeks".
Education provision has been cut, with guards reportedly attempting to take classes in art and English. Provision of newspapers has been drastically cut. There are now no foreign-language newspapers at all, and just two copies each of The Sun and the Daily Mail - Britain's leading anti-asylum tabloids. The Movie Channel has been switched off. The centre's gym, which used to be open till 11pm, now closes at 4.30. And the food, incredibly, has got worse: it is now chicken every day.
Staff, most of whom were employed by GSL before May 29th, now have to work longer hours for less pay, working 5 consecutive days instead of 4.
The tension has exploded into violence and self-harm: an attempted suicide and roof-protest on Monday (a Somali man, identity and present whereabouts still unknown); yesterday a violent incident between an elderly inmate and a group of ex-prisoners: all inappropriately detained and cooped up together in these explosive conditions.
There will be further demonstrations of support this weekend. For further details contact:
The Campaign to Close Campsfield: 01865 726804 or 07968 292499 (Teresa Hayter and Bob Hughes) or 01865 558145 (Bill MacKeith)