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Letter to Press From Campsfield Hungerstrikers

Campsfield Detainees | 19.06.2006 09:56 | Refugee Week 2006 | Anti-racism | Migration | Repression | Oxford

120 migrants detainees on hungerstrike in Campdfield Immigration Removal Center, near Oxford, went on hungerstrike last week to protest against conditions. Here is a letter some of the hungerstrikers wrote for the press.

16 June 2006

Dear Producers and Editors

I would firstly like to thank all the people who have shown concern for the way that Campsfield House and other detention camps are being run in the United Kingdom.

As a detainee in Campsfield I would like to confirm that all that has been said in the media was absolutely true and it would be greatly appreciated by all detainees if you could publish this letter.

I would like to bring to the attention of the government and other parties that this strike has nothing to do with the change of management at Campsfield. We are trying to deliver a message to the government. Please see below some of the main points which have led to the hunger strike:

Detainees are in a worse position than prisoners. This is because a prisoner
knows the length of time of their sentence whilst detainees are innocent people who are kept in these detention centres indefinitely. Some people have been in detention for a few months but others have been confined for more than 2 years with no knowledge of when they will be released.

Most of the people in detention are genuine Asylum Seekers who have fled their country of origin because they have been persecuted, tortured, or face death. The government knows this but they pretend that they don’t understand.

These Asylum Seekers need protection but instead of listening to them, the government wants to make them scapegoats for the illegal immigrants in this country. The government appears to like people who come to the country, commit crimes and tell their lies, but if you tell the government the truth they say that you are fabricating things in order to remain in the country.

The government knows that some countries are not safe, yet they are forcibly deporting genuine Asylum Seekers back to them to face death. At the same time, non-genuine asylum seekers, who are willing to be returned to their countries, and even offer to purchase their own tickets in some cases, are being detained in these centres, or even released back into society. Where is the logic and fairness in this?

I would like to ask Tony Blair and his government how they can keep responsible people in detention for more than 3 months without a just reason? Their policies are destroying us psychologically and killing us slowly. I personally feel that I am unable to stand it much longer and so this government should not be surprised if something happens to me soon.

Some of the officers are lovely, caring people, but we want to highlight the approach of other officers who talk to us as though we are the scum of society and racially abuse us. One officer has had many complaints made against him but he remains in his job, free to abuse his trapped victims, knowing that he is safe. Even, maybe unsurprisingly, one of the Immigration Representatives is a racist, but detainees’ complaints fall on deaf ears.

We are treated as slaves. The government’s own laws state that failed Asylum Seekers must not do either paid or unpaid work yet they have us working in their detention centres, painting, gardening, clearing tables and mopping floors in return for £3 or £5 vouchers redeemable only in the detention shop. No minimum wage in detention. What is this new civilised slavery? This is government hypocrisy that allows for the exploitation of the people they round up and force into these centres.

Campsfield staff even tried to give vouchers to detainees if they agreed to end their hunger strike. They also used vouchers to try to bribe detainees to disclose the names of the people who organised the strike. One of the hunger strikers who has been given paracetamol, instead of treatment, for the last two weeks for severe tooth ache, has been refused pain killers since he started the strike.

The medical facilities in detention are bizarre. Sleeping tablets are given to people who have rashes. One detainee who has a bullet lodged in his knee has been refused an operation to remove it. The letter refusing his treatment was written on 27 April, yet he was only given it last week. Detainees who complain of serious illnesses are given paracetamol.

The food served up is the same every day. Sometimes the previous day’s food is reheated the following day. You have a choice – chicken and rice, or chips with curry or gravy.

The man who climbed onto Campsfield’s roof on Monday 12 June 2006 was a Somalian man who had been living in this country for more than 10 years. He was an Asylum Seeker who had been given British citizenship and was living in Milton Keynes. He was arrested at a tube station as a suspected terrorist and put in prison for a year. After finishing his sentence he was kept in prison for a further 4 months. When he asked why he was being kept in prison he was transferred to Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre on 9 June 2006. He climbed onto the roof with a rope and plastic bag. He wanted the government and public to know that he had British citizenship and he was going to hang himself if he wasn’t released. Campsfield management called the police and ambulance services and a compromise was reached before he came down from the roof. None of us know what became of this man or where he was taken to by the police.

Campsfield’s refusal to allow journalists into the centre is an admission to the public that the detainees confined behind the barbed wire are not being treated humanely. The British government talks about human rights and the way that other countries should treat their citizens but where are Britain’s human rights?

We want the government to stop its hypocrisy and release the innocent people they herd into their detention centres.

Yours sincerely Campsfield Detainees

Campsfield Detainees


Display the following 2 comments

  1. Letter to Campsfield Detainees from the British — bad george
  2. Oi - George, No! — renegado