August protest to call for end to unjust blockade of Gaza and unjust detention of refugees

PRESS RELEASE         27 August 2014

The monthly protest organized by the Campaign to Close Campsfield will this Saturday highlight the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and refugees in British detention centres. As well as calling for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the protest will call on the British government to recognise the rights of refugees in this country. Campaigners will argue that Britain cannot help to solve conflicts around the world whilst it denies people justice at home.

A spokesperson for the campaign said:
“Gaza has become a prison. Its inhabitants are denied the rights of citizenship, and then punished for it. Meanwhile every immigration detention centre in Britain is a Gaza in our own country. No-one in a detention centre is serving a sentence for a crime. Instead, they are locked up for not having the rights we refuse to give them. The Israeli government could not treat its own citizens the way it treats Palestinians, and our government could not treat its own citizens the way it treats refugees. No-one is illegal. Neither a Palestinian in Gaza nor a refugee in Britain should be imprisoned just because of their nationality. If we value our own freedoms, we should value those who are denied justice in the middle east and those who are denied justice in our own country.”

Inquires to Austen Saunders – austensaunders@gmail.com – 07753390767

Notes to editors

  • Campsfield House opened in 1993.
  • It is a privately run detention centre Campsfield is run by Mitie, the outsourcing company, on behalf of the Home Office
  • The Campaign to Close Campsfield is a local group which, since the centre opened, has campaigned to close the centre and protect the rights of inmates whilst the centre remains open.
  • A monthly protest takes place on the last Saturday of every month, 12 noon to 2pm at Campsfield House main gates, Langford Lane, Kidlington.

Shareholders challenge Mitie over Campsfield Detention Centre

Belated posting of press release issued on 10 July 2014

At the AGM of Mitie held in London on 9 July, shareholders challenged management over conditions in Campsfield House.

The Reverend Robert Nind (see full text of his statement below) challenged:

a) Mitie’s acceptance of the contract to take over the running of Campsfield despite the Home Office refusing to put in sprinklers, as strongly advised by Oxon Chief Fire Officer. (The destructive and life-threatening fire of last October was the result.)

b) Their acceptance of the Home Office directive to pay detainees no more than £5 a day, as if they could be treated the same way as a convicted criminal.

c) Their failure to raise any objections to the Home Office decisions when Rule 35 referrals from Campsfield, about vulnerable individuals who should not be detained, were ignored or rejected by the Home Office.

Bill MacKeith, speaking on behalf of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: ‘Mitie has bowed down to the will of the Home Office when signing the contract by accepting the Home Office criteria. A firm with a reputation to keep cannot do that. Our argument is that any deal with the Home Office to detain innocent people indefinitely without judicial oversight means accepting a poisoned chalice.’

Notes to editors

  • Campsfield House opened in 1993.
  • It is a privately run detention centre Campsfield is run by Mitie, the outsourcing company, on behalf of the Home Office
  • Mitie will soon take over running detention centres at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook which will be combined into a single unit.
  • Previous controversies at Campsfield include many hunger strikes and other protests by detainees and a 2004 report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons condemning conditions.
  • The Campaign to Close Campsfield is a local group which, since the centre opened, has campaigned to close the centre and protect the rights of inmates whilst the centre remains open.

 

Appendix: Full text of the Statement made by the Reverend Robert Nind at the 2014 Annual General Meeting of Mitie plc      

Since last year’s AGM I wish to record my appreciation for the work of Danny Spencer and Paul Morrison in establishing an External Stakeholders Meeting at Campsfield House IRC twice a year. This has enabled Medical Justice Oxford along with those who support and train detainees in preparing for their bail applications, as well as Stella and myself on behalf of the Churches Council for Corporate Responsibility, to raise questions of concern with the Centre Management.

Although Management and ourselves represent totally opposed views on the matter of migrant detention, we can share a mutual concern for the conditions and processes in which these escapees from prison and murder in their own lands, are being treated here. What we have discussed in this Stakeholder Meeting needs no further airing in this AGM, since we met only 3 weeks ago.

We await Minutes and outcomes under the authority of Neil Aubeelack, your new Centre Manager to whom we were pleased to be introduced.

Nevertheless it will remain a mystery to me, as to why a Company which employs and manages a workforce of more than 70,000 persons, in areas of its original expertise, should also want to drink from a poisoned chalice proffered by the Home Office.

That poisoned chalice is, to any who know about it, the detention of migrants fleeing death or destitution; and, along with them, those convicted of crime in this country who have completed their sentence and should have had their cases sorted out before they were released from prison.

It is a poisoned chalice because MITIE plc is thereby implicated in what any person, once briefed on the facts, rejects as inhumane. To participate in this does no more good for the reputation of MITIE than it has for SERCO, G4S or GEO.

And yet, having won the contracts, you are from September about to take over Harmondsworth and Colnbrook , uniting them and renaming them, I understand, as Heathrow IRC: and in addition you are seeking to double the size of Campsfield if planning permission is obtained. This will only destroy what has made life inside Campsfield more tolerable for inmates recently, namely SPACE, paradoxically as a consequence of the fire. Once again the enlarged Mosque, the Study and Recreational and Accommodation areas will be overcrowded. It will become like a London rush hour station, all services under enormous pressure, as difficult for staff as for detainees.

I shall end with 3 illustrations of what I mean by the poisoned chalice, the result of not challenging Home Office decisions when signing the Campsfield contract.

1). The first is now history; but looking back the Board must conclude that it was insane to agree to accept management of a building which the Fire Officers had warned was a major danger to life unless sprinklers had been fitted, as in all hostelries and public buildings, most especially one that incarcerates desperate people. You, a Plant Management Company of experience, accepted it without insisting that this should be done: – because the Home Office said ‘No’.

2). Because the Home Office fixed the wage level at £5 a day for tasks which occupy a detainee for some 6 hours you accepted it, though you know it does your reputation no good. Campsfield inmates are not prisoners; most have no criminal record apart from entering the country without the correct papers; and those who do have a criminal record have served their sentence. Of course £5 a day may seem better than no pounds a day and no job; but it is still exploitation and should have been argued against at time of contract with the Home Office.

3). Lastly, from the Home Office regulations, rule 35, which defines those who should not be detained: – such as victims of torture or rape, those suffering from some mental illness or physically challenging condition which is beyond the care of the Health Centre. After inquiry Paul Morrison informed the stakeholder group in January that the Campsfield medical staff had made 45 Rule 35 referrals to the Home Office caseworkers, which were acknowledged. We have yet to be told whether any of them were released. If they were not, then it raises serious questions about the standard of care you are ready to accept from a Home Office, whose staff seem to have little conscience about breaking their own rules.

You in ‘Care and Custody’ must be disturbed and far better informed than shareholders will ever be as to the ill informed actions or inactions of Home Office caseworkers. The complicity between Companies and the Home Office at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth in ignoring detainees’ health and human rights has been widely publicised. I hope that, unlike your predecessors, you will not only stick to the rules but also query the judgements of caseworkers – who will never meet their clients, as your own medical staff do.

ARE REFUGEES WELCOME HERE?

As part of Oxford Refugee Week (16th – 22nd June 2014), the Campaign to Close Campsfield is holding a public meeting on Monday 16th June, 7pm at Oxford Town Hall:
‘Are refugees welcome here? If not, what can we do about it?’

Speakers include:
Immigration lawyer Colin Yeo, barrister at Garden Court Chambers: The law and being a refugee in the UK
Child psychiatrist Dr Mina Fazel, NIHR post-doctoral research fellow, Oxford University Department of Psychiatry: The mental health of newly arrived refugee and asylum-seeking children
Psychology and law trainer Clare Cochrane, Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law: Research which challenges the culture of disbelief in the UK

Public meeting Are Refugees Welcome here 16 June 2014Public meeting – Are Refugees Welcome Here? 16 June 2014

 

Press statement: hunger strike ended at Campsfield‏

PRESS RELEASE 14 May 2014

The hunger strike protest at Campsfield ended on Saturday after 3
days. An outbreak of flu was a contributing factor.

The demand of the protesting detainees was to close all immigration
detention centres in the UK.

hungerstrikersdemand2014

A number of other issues were raised by a Campsfield detainees’
spokesperson in an interview available on Youtube:

Open Democracy article:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jasmine-sallis/neither-criminals-nor-animals-week-of-unrest-in-britains-migrant-jails

We thank the detainees for raising these issues, which we shall
pursue. We continue in close contact with the detainees.

Campaign to Close Campsfield tel. 01865 558145 /01993 703994

PRESS RELEASE Campsfield detainees go on hunger strike as protests by immigration detainees spread

PRESS RELEASE 7 May 2014

Once again, detainees at Campsfield are on hunger strike.

The hunger strike began this morning (7th May) with the simple demand
to close all immigration detention centres in the United Kingdom.
Detainees believe their detention is a breach of their human rights.

More than 50 detainees are partaking, which includes many
nationalities including several Arabic speaking countries as well as
Chinese.

Hunger striker Mr A said: ‘All of our friends want medias
support. Authorities do not want to listen to us. Thankyou.’

On Friday (2 May) over 150 detainees in Harmondsworth migrant prison
near Heathrow airport occupied the main courtyard in a sit down
protest and began a mass hunger strike. Their demands:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/222052881/Letter-to-Home-Office-From-Asylum-Detainees-on-hunger-strike-in-Harmondsworth-detention-centre

Yesterday (Tuesday 6 May) in Colnbrook detention centre, right next to
Harmondsworth, guards broke up an organising meeting of 40 detainees
and put five ‘ringleaders’ in isolation cells, before moving them to
another secure facility. Supporters have since been unable to contact
the men.

Then at 10pm last (Tuesday) night a group of 20 men detained at Brook
House IRC near Gatwick staged a protest in the courtyard and refused
to return to their cells.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THE 20 YEARS SINCE CAMPSFIELD OPENED:

16.04.98: Sir David Ramsbotham, chief inspector of prisons, publishes
his report on Campsfield, which states that ‘it is abundantly clear’
that ‘there is little or no consistency, or logic, in current
arrangements for deciding upon detention’ (§I-25).

17/4/98: ‘Campsfield is an abomination to human rights in that it
presumes guilt from the outset. Today those loyal protesters who have
been branded as cranks and soft-centred do-gooders have been proved
right.’ – From the Oxford Mail

Campaign to Close Campsfield: Bill 01865 558145, Liz 07791 738 577

There will be a demo tomorrow (Thursday 8 May) at Campsfield gates at 6pm.

Former Campsfield detainee sentenced to 32 months prison after admitting arson

PRESS RELEASE 1 April 2014

Former Campsfield detainee sentenced to 32 months prison after admitting arson

Farid Pardiaz, 25, from Afghanistan was sentenced today by Judge Mowat
in Oxford Crown Court to 32 months in prison after pleading guilty to
committing simple arson at Campsfield detention centre on 18 October
2013.

Judge Mowat stated that Mr Pardiaz appeared to have had mixed motives
for setting light to bedding in his room, from which fire spread into
the roof space of Blue Block at the centre. He had wished both to kill
himself and also to show the authorities how strongly he felt that he
should not be returned to Afghanistan, where he feared for his life.

Judge Mowat accepted that Mr Pardiaz had not meant to cause the damage
and losses estimated by outgoing centre manager Paul Morrison of
Mitie, which runs the centre, as mounting to over £900,000, but she
nevertheless had to take the high cost into account in deciding the
sentence.

No mention was made by judge in sentencing or by defence of the fact
that Mr Pardiaz had been refused a request to see a doctor in the days
running up to the fire, when, as a psychiatric report stated, Mr
Pardiaz was experiencing a depressive episode. Nor was it mentioned
that very little damage at all would have been caused if the Home
Office had carried out the recommendations of the Oxon Fire Service
and fitted sprinklers in the centre – a fact for which the Home Office
alone bears the responsibility.

After he has served his time, which with remission and time already
served may be some 12-15 months, the government will seek to deport Mr
Pardiaz, who is currently held in Bullingdon Prison.

Contacts: Bill 01865 558145, Liz 07791 738 577

Campaigners protest as Home Office plans to double size of Campsfield

PRESS RELEASE 28 March 2014

Campaigners protest as Home Office plans to double size of Campsfield

Home Office officials have stated that the government plans to
increase the capacity of Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre from
the present 260 (when Blue Block, closed by the October 2013 fire,
reopens and the current expansion of numbers by packing in more beds
into the same area is complete) by 250 to 510 beds. A Mitie employee
at Campsfield stated this week that the figure is 350 (total 610).

In February, Mitie won a £180m bid to run Colnbrook and Harmondsworth
detention centres near Heathrow airport over the next eight years,
starting from September 2014. This makes Mitie the Home Office’s
leading provider of immigration detention services, less than three
years after ‘entering the market’, to quote its press release.

Only five months ago, Campsfield, run by Mitie, was ravaged by a major
fire[i] that spread due to an absence of sprinklers, according to the
Chief Fire Officers Association.

Campaign to Close Campsfield member Bill MacKeith said: “Mitie’s
shareholders may be rubbing their hands. But what can we say of a
‘leader in property maintenance’[ii] happy to take over a detention
centre not fitted with fire sprinklers? Last October’s fire was the
inevitable outcome, as the Oxon Fire Service predicted. Since Mitie
took over, Campsfield’s history of mass hunger strikes, suicide and
attempted suicides has run on.”

Some of those detained will be ‘foreign national prisoners’ who have
served a prison sentence and now await deportation. According to the
shocking report[iii] published today by the Independent Chief
Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the average immigration
detention time for such people is 18 months to 2 years.

Bill MacKeith said: ‘Such scandalously long detention, strongly
condemned in the report, is NOT a reason to expand what the government
doublespeak calls the “detention estate”.’

Demonstration 12 noon Saturday 29 March 2014

At Campsfield main gates, Langford Lane, Kidlington OX5 1RE

Contacts: Bill 01865 558145, Liz 07791 738 577, Gill 01993 703994

________________________________

[i] Farid Pardiaz appears in Oxford Crown Court on 1 April charged
with arson on 17 October 2013 at Campsfield.

[ii] Mitie website: ‘We combine our in-depth knowledge of fire safety
and buildings regulations with a detailed understanding of your exact
requirements … Our fire protection services are high-quality,
competitively-priced, and technologically advanced, and we’re
committed to sustainable business practices.’ ‘Your fire prevention
and business security systems are part of your building’s life support
system; we’ll make sure they keep you safe.’

[iii] http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/home-office-not-removing-large-numbers-of-foreign-nationals-with-no-right-to-stay-in-the-uk-despite-securing-travel-documents/