The detainees' peaceful protest started the 1st of April from 9am, with a mass food refusal from the almost totality of the detainees in the centre. The detainees also occupied the courtyard . Around 120 remained in the courtyard all night.
A petition with 116 signature was sent to the Europen Court of Human Rights, John McDonnell MP and others. The detainees are complaining they are being deported without having their cases properly heard and that they are detained in the meantime, without having committed any crime and they are being abused by detention staff . The “fast track system” means that asylum seekers are not getting enough time to prepare their cases. Legal representation it is often of very poor quality. The detainees believe this is a violation of their human rights.
After failed negotiations with Immigration, food refusal resumed on Friday. On Saturday the repression began.
The detainees left in Harmondsworth are feeling very intimidated but they say they are coping. We believe the hunger strike in HArmondsworh is mainly over.
Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre is run by Kalyx, a subsidiary of multinational company Sodexo (formerly Sodexho).
Harmondsworth detainees' petition: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/04/395575.html
Detainees' statements: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/04/395251.html
John Mc Donnell MP has done representations on behalf of the detainees, asking above other things that nobody is deported until allegations of assaults are investigated. He has also written a letter of complaint at the way the detainees have been treated.
soidarity with the detainees!
This is only a partial list of some of the most remarkable incidents, disruptions and protests that happend in Harmonswoth. Every day someone is pushed to madness and sucide. People resist every day, every day someone is on hunger strike.
Harmondsworth opened in September 2001 in place of a smaller detention centre, the 'old' Harmondsworth. It is situated near Heathrow airport and stands next to another large, newly built detention centre called Colnbrook. Together the two centres can hold nearly 900 men, when operating with full capacity. (Colnbrook was hit by a mass hunger strike in 2006).
In 2003 Olga Blaskevica was killed in Harmondsworht by her mentally ill husband.
Harmondsworth had to close down a first time in July 2004, after the centre was severely damaged during a detainees' uprising. Trouble exploded following the suicide of detainee Sergey Baraunick. Many detainees, including women and children, suffered from shock and smoke inhalation and some were hospitalized. Later in the year Harmondsworth re-opened with increased capacity (501) to hold single men only.
In June-July 2005 Harmondsworth was at the centre of a mass hunger strike involving over 100 Zimbabwean detainees: the hunger strike spread to several other detention centres. Most Zimbabweans were released from detention when the High Court put a halt to deportations to Zimbabwe.
Peaceful protests including a short-lived hunger strike followed the suicide of detainee Beretek Yohannes in January 2006. Many detainees were punished, put in isolation and moved from Harmondsworth to other centres so to break the protest.
In November 2006 Harmondsworth had to close down for the second time after being damaged during another uprising. This occurred immediately after the prison inspector Anne Owers published a report in which the centre was strongly criticised. Four men who were arbitrarily accused of causing the damage have recently been aquitted after standing trial. The centre has in the meantime re-opened partially and two damdaged wings are being worked on to increase capacity and lock up people more tightly. Perhaps the government's way to defend the indefensible and render more manageable something that cannot be managed?
In July 2007 some 30 Tamil detainees went on hunger strike in protest at their planned deportation to Sri Lanka. (After two Sri Lankan were killed after being deported, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne's only comment was that they were 'isolated incidents' and therefore removals to Sri Lanka would continue...) Shortly after the High Cout put a halt to deportations of Tamils to Sri Lanka because too dangerous.
The latest protest involved some 200 detainees of all nationalities, nearly everybody in the centre.
Early news that they were 300 detainees protesting are slightly exaggerated, as Harmondsworth is currently operating at reduced capacity of 250 due to the 2006 riots and subsequent refurbishment works.
What is particuarily remarkable this time is hte almost unanimous resistance, the brutality of the repression, and the total lack of interest from the mainstream media.
solidarity with the detainees!