Close Campsfield and all immigration prisons!

On 14 June as FRFI supporters were gathered in Trafalgar Square for the Break the Chains rally in support of political prisoners and detainees around the world (see page 14), we received news from a Kurdish comrade, who had just left the event, that immigration detainees in Campsfield in Oxfordshire were staging a protest and that there was a fire in the centre. We managed to speak to a Kurdish detainee inside the detention centre, who told us that a small group of men had begun a protest over conditions and that others of many different nationalities had quickly joined in. Nicki Jameson reports.

The authorities responded to the protest by sending in riot-clad prison officers. A BBC report covered up the reality, saying they were there to ‘escort detainees back to their rooms’ and that ‘detainees were held in an exercise yard to calm down’.

This protest follows others at Campsfield in March, August and December 2007. Exactly two years before the latest protest 140 detainees went on hunger strike following the take-over of the centre by US company GEO (Global Expertise on Outsourcing) from previous private contractors GSL and the violent removal of a Somali detainee who had gone onto the roof of the centre.

Five days after the protest seven detainees escaped. Again this is just the latest in a history of escapes from Campsfield, with 26 prisoners going on the run in August 2007.

GEO Group UK is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GEO Group Inc, which describes itself as ‘an industry leader in the international privatised corrections market’. It was founded by George C Zoley, former director of the Wackenhut Corporation, and is planning for ‘substantial growth in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other areas in Europe for corrections and immigration services’. It opened a UK office in 2004 in order to ‘vigorously pursue’ a slice of ‘the second largest private correctional market in the world’.  

On 24 June FRFI supporters attended an inspiring meeting organised by No Borders entitled ‘Resistance in Detention’ addressed by former detainees who have been involved in militant and successful hunger strikes, protests and uprisings at Yarls Wood, Campsfield, Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres over the past three years. There is no doubt that as long as the British government continues to criminalise and imprison asylum seekers and immigrants there will be resistance from inside the detention centres. It is our job to support that resistance from outside.

FRFI 204 August / September 2008


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