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Solidarity Demonstatrio for the Hamrondsworth Heros

John O | 04.12.2006 06:07 | Migration | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | Birmingham | London

80 demonstrators protested outside Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centres on Sunday the 3rd Decembeer 2006

Speakers at the demo
Speakers at the demo

All photos by John O for NCADC
All photos by John O for NCADC

A large scale disturbance broke out at Harmondsworth on Tuesday 28 November 2006 after HM Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) published a report on Harmondsworth which it described as "Undoubtedly the poorest report" issued on any immigration removal centre to date.

The HMIP report revealed what we have known and detainees have suffered for many years
The report painted a picture of endemic victimisation of detainees by staff, that complaints system was distrusted and ineffective, that relationships between custody officers and detainees were "worse than had been seen at any other detention centre", that use of force and use of temporary confinement in segregated conditions was high.

Despite the fact that there have been major disturbances at Harmondsworth and Bereket Johannes was found hanged there earlier this year, HMIP reports that "Suicide and self-harm work was weak" and "Appropriate action had not been taken in response to problems identified by the inquiry into a recent self-inflicted death".

The protest continued throughout the night. The detainees spelled out a makeshift SOS help banner with bedsheets in one courtyard which was visible to a news company helicopter until the airspace above the centre was declared a "no fly zone".

The Home Office say that the disturbance is now under control and that 150 detainees from around the detention "estate" will be released on bail so that space is made available for Harmondsworth detainees.

The scapegoating has started
Lin Homer, the head of the Home Office's immigration service, accused those involved of "making a deliberate attempt at sabotage in order to frustrate" their deportation, whereas detainees say the incident was triggered when guards prevented detainees from watching TV news clips about the HMIP report.

The Home Office sub-contracts the arbitrary and indefinite detention of men, women and children to private profit-making companies who abuse the detainees, and detainees are blamed for escalating their actions, after their written complaints through the official complaints procedure have been ignored and peaceful protests brutally quashed.

Will the Crown Prosecution Service try and charge the wrong people, again ?
Over the years, a pattern of dealing with detention centre disturbances has emerged ... prosecute detainees instead of the Home Office, throw them in prison, deport nearly all of the defence witnesses, and deny that the media frenzy against asylum seekers prevents any fair trial, in which the defendants are detainees instead of the Home Secretary and his underlings.

Detainees banged on the sides of the "meat wagon" vans as they were moved last night
We are especially concerned for the Harmondsworth detainees that, even by the Home Office's own policies, should not "ordinarily" be detained ; the torture survivors, the sick, the disabled, the psychiatrically disturbed, and the one we know has TB.

John O
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