More protests in immigration detention

On 1 April immigration detainees at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) began a hunger strike and peaceful protest about their conditions and treatment and the way in which their asylum applications were being dealt with under the fast-track system. On 5 April the protest was violently repressed by prison officers in riot gear, who stormed the centre and beat protesters; at least 30 were taken away, either to the segregation block in neighbouring Colnbrook IRC or to criminal prisons. We gather that five men were moved to Walton prison in Liverpool and another five to Manchester, either to Forest Bank or Strangeways.

One detainee who was moved to Liverpool, wrote to FRFI: ‘On 5 April at around 8am my door was opened. To my surprise I saw people dressed in riot suits. They took me to the gymnasium where I saw many detainees sitting on the floor, telling me we are going to prison...Getting to prison the officers told us immigration told them we were rioting. There was nothing like a riot. What happened is that people went on hunger strike. Even the immigration officers that came to address us said they are happy it is a peaceful protest’ .

We have also spoken to a detainee still in Harmondsworth, who was beaten and moved to the Colnbrook punishment block. He is anxious to find out where the detainees in criminal prisons are and has asked FRFI to appeal for prisoners reading this to let us know the details of anyone who arrived from Harmondsworth on 5 April.

Yarls Wood
At Yarls Wood IRC on 10 April, 15 mothers, including two who were breast-feeding, began a hunger strike against appalling conditions, continued detention of children and the forced removal of a mother and child. There have been ongoing protests at Yarls Wood, where single women and families are held. Women say that they are held in cramped confinement, meaning viruses spread quickly; that they have to wash babies’ bottles in toilet bowls and that immigration officials totally refuse to listen to these concerns.

Nicki Jameson

FRFI 203 June / July 2008


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