Anti-detention protests spread to four removal centres

A protest which started on Friday at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre has spread to three other institutions, amid signs of nationwide unrest at the deportation process.

Fifty detainees at Campsfield in Oxfordshire joined the wave of protests yesterday morning and started a hunger-strike. There are also actions taking place in Brook House, near Gatwick Airport, and Colnbrook, near Heathrow.

"We want our freedom. We want our life with dignity," a detainee at Campsfield said.

"We do not want to be treated in an inhuman way. That's why we are demanding the closure of all detention centres for immigrants in the UK."

Supporters from the Campaign to Close Campsfield are meeting outside the detention centre this evening to show solidarity with protestors inside.

On Tuesday 20 men in Brook House staged an all-night protest in the centre's exercise yard, with the detainees refusing to return to their cells.

The next day all but four of them were placed in solitary confinement, a caseworker said. The men are understood to still be in confinement.

The protest at Colnbrook currently stands at over 50 men.

Guards broke up an organising meeting of 40 detainees there on Tuesday and put five ringleaders in isolation before moving them to another secure facility. Supporters have since been unable to contact the men.

The protests were sparked on Friday when hundreds of detainees at Harmondsworth detention centre staged a sit down demonstration in the court yard. The men also refused to eat.

They wrote up a list of demands which they handed over to Home Office officials for negotiations.

The men said they were being denied the resources to conduct their legal campaigns. A fax machine the men were relying on was broken for several days, leaving their legal battles at a standstill.

When the Home Office told the men they would read the demands and return for a meeting, they gave up their protest.

But the Home Office reportedly failed to respond and the detainees are now being interviewed individually about why they signed the petition.

"No-one from the Home Office came to meet and discuss the petition as promised," said Unity caseworker Jasmine Sallis.

Dozens of the detainees involved in the protest have subsequently been issued with deportation orders, in what campaigners are calling a politically motivated decision.

Local MP John McDonnell has scheduled an early day motion expressing concern at the protests and urging the home secretary to "commission an independent review of the grievances raised by the detainees with the aim of resolving this dispute".