Press Release: Campsfield Expansion: Wrong, Abusive, and Unnecessary – who benefits?‏

PRESS RELEASE 22/10/2014 FOR IMMEDIATE USE

An application to expand Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre has now been submitted to Cherwell District Council. The plans would more than double the number of people imprisoned at the Centre from 276 to 556. Bill MacKeith, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, has described the plans as “wrong, inhumane and unnecessary”.

Opposition to the plans

Already the plans have attracted substantial opposition. Nicola Blackwood, the MP for Campsfield, and her two principal challengers at the next General Election, Labour’s Sally Copley, the Liberal Democrats’ Layla Moran and the Greens’ Larry Sanders, have all opposed any expansion.[i] [ii] [iii] [iv] Oxford East MP Andrew Smith has done likewise. [v] Oxford City Council has existing policy calling for Campsfield to close.[vi] Local residents, community Organisations,churches and trade unions have all expressed concerns to the Campaign to Close Campsfield. More than 50 people attended a public meeting against the expansion held in Kidlington on 20 October.

Cherwell District Council’s role

Cherwell District Council’s Planning Committee will not be able to consider the wider arguments against the expansion and must make a decision on planning grounds alone. Local residents and others can contact councillors on the planning committee and make submissions by emailing planning@cherwell-dc.gov.uk with their concerns. Liz Peretz, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, has said “We believe there are strong planning grounds for turning this application down, and hope Cherwell District Council will do so.”

Immigration detention is wrong

Bill MacKeith of the Campaign to Close Campsfield has said: “It is wrong to imprison people who have not committed a crime. Immigration detention is an administrative convenience for the Home Office not a punishment for a crime – migrants are rounded up not sentenced.”

People detained in Campsfield include those whose asylum claim is still under consideration and people deemed failed asylum seekers but whose case has not been properly heard because of poor translation at interviews, a lack of legal representation and a culture of disbelief at the Home Office. Detainees wanting to go home often wait in detention for months before arrangements for travel documents are made by the HO. Some cannot be returned because they are stateless, travel documents cannot be obtained or there is a nationality dispute. Most have not committed crimes, although some are people who have already served a sentence for a crime and are in effect being punished twice because they are foreign. All are detained indefinitely, without judicial oversight. They lack many of the protections in law that are given to prisoners convicted of an offence.

Immigration detention is abusive

Dr Peter Young, the recently retired director of mental health services at detention centre service provider International Health and Mental Services (IMHS) in Australia recently blew the whistle on the impact of detention, showing that it meets international definitions of torture.[vii] Other reports show that detention of those who have not committed a crime without a release date causes harm to the mental health of detainees.[viii] This is especially the case for those who have experienced trauma, such as torture survivors. The Home Office is not supposed to detain torture survivors, but there is evidence to suggest they routinely refuse applications for the release of torture survivors. There have been 25 violent deaths in detention, over half by suicide. Others have been released shortly before their deaths or have died during removal attempts. Numerous claims have been made against guards and immigration officials for racist and sexual abuse but witnesses are often deported before cases come to court. Immigration detention facilitates abuse but is also abusive in itself.

The expansion is unnecessary

According to the Home Office’s own statistics, while the number of detention places continues to go up, there is a long-term trend in the proportion of detainees being removed – down to 56% in the year ending June 2014.[ix] In the last year there was an increase in the number of immigration detainees granted temporary admission or release from 34% to 36%.[x] Even under the Home Office’s own rules, these people could not be removed and should never have been detained in the first place. Asylum seekers and other migrants are being “warehoused” in detention centres to justify the costs of the private security firms running them. If the Home Office released unreturnable migrants earlier, the equivalent of three detention centres could be shut without reducing the number of people removed from the country.[xi] The Campaign to Close Campsfield believes the human costs of detention are more significant than the financial costs, but people should know that detention of unreturnable migrants costs the taxpayer £75 million per year.[xii] The true cost of detention is unknown as Home Office figures do not include legal costs, compensation, or escort costs.

Who would benefit from the expansion?

Detainees would be harmed by the expansion. Expanding the number of places in Campsfield would cost the taxpayer millions without doing what it set out to do. The only benefits would be to MITIE, the company that runs Campsfield, and its shareholders. When MITIE took over the Campsfield contract in 2012 it was the first time they had handled a major security contract. Despite presiding over multiple hunger strikes, deaths in detention and a fire for which they and their insurers were deemed financially responsible,[xiii] they were subsequently awarded the contract for the larger Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres.[xiv] Since then they have presided over a major pest infestation at Harmondsworth.[xv] They run Campsfield on the cheap by paying the very detainees locked up there £1 an hour to do vital tasks.[xvi] These wheeler-dealers are the only beneficiaries of the plans to expand Campsfield.

ENDS

For more information, contact Bill MacKeith on 01865 558 145 or Tim Flatman on 07595 908 405 / tflatman@gmail.com

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[i] Nicola Blackwood MP has said “This proposal makes no sense for Kidlington or for our immigration system. We should be looking for alternatives to detention rather than expanding our detention programme and Campsfield House in particular has already struggled to manage with its existing numbers resulting in a series of serious incidents… I am quite clear that doubling the size of Campsfield would be wrong for Kidlington and wrong for detainees.” (Source: online petition here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/campsfield )

[ii] Sally Copley has said “It’s clearly wrong to detain at all people who are not criminals but instead are fleeing conflict, let alone indefinitely. The Home Office have not made a satisfactory case for why they want to extend Campsfield House, and it’s a shame the District Council are only allowed to consider this on planning grounds, as there are strong humanitarian reasons for rejecting it.”(Source: quote given to Campaign to Close Campsfield.)

[iii] Layla Moran has said “We should be aiming to close the centre, not expand it… if the moral grounds for not expanding weren’t enough, in the UK the number of people being deported in the UK is in fact declining. Expanding Campsfield now makes no sense in this climate. Given that we are deporting fewer people we need to be aiming to detain fewer too. (Source: The Vulnerable Deserve To Be Treated With Compassion, Oxford Mail, 11/9/14, http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11465021.The_vulnerable_deserve_to_be_treated_with_compassion/?ref=ms)

[iv] Larry Sanders has said “the detention of asylum seekers… is costly, traumatic, inhumane and totally unnecessary. It would be perverse to squander large sums of money on the expansion of Campsfield and additional millions of pounds every year on maintaining it while we are said to lack the money to provide decent housing, and even adequate food, to hundreds of thousands of people.” (Source: quote given to the Campaign to Close Campsfield.)

[v] Andrew Smith MP has said “I’m against the plans to expand Campsfield House, which are contrary to government claims that detention is a last resort. The Home Office should await the outcome of the current Parliamentary Inquiry into alternatives to detention and a time limit on detention. They should also listen to the views of local people.” (Source: quote given to Campaign to Close Campsfield.)

[vi] Oxford City Council’s policy on Campsfield, which has been renewed each time it has come up for renewal, can be found here: http://mycouncil.oxford.gov.uk/CeListDocuments.aspx?CommitteeId=0&MeetingId=670&DF=17%2f09%2f2004&Ver=2

[vii] See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/05/-sp-australias-detention-regime-sets-out-to-make-asylum-seekers-suffer-says-chief-immigration-psychiatrist

[viii] See, for example: Ali McGinley and Adeline Trude (2012), Positive Duty of Care? The Mental Health Crisis in Immigration Detention. Briefing paper by the Mental Health in Immigration Detention Project, Association of Visitors to immigration Detainees and Bail for Immigration Detainees,http://www.aviddetention.org.uk/images/positive%20duty%20of%20care%20final.pdf

Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (2012), A Prison of the Mind: The Mental Health Implications of Detention in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre http://www.gdwg.org.uk/downloads/gdwg-prisoninthemind.pdf

 

Pourgourides, C., Sashidharan, S. & Bracken, P., (1996) A Second Exile: The Mental Health Implications of Detention of Asylum Seekers in the United Kingdom, Birmingham: Northern Birmingham Mental Health Trust.

[ix] According to the Quarterly Immigration Statistics, April-June

2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-april-to-june-2014/immigration-statistics-april-to-june-2014#detention-1

STOP CAMPSFIELD EXPANSION – PUBLIC MEETING

There will be a public meeting about the proposed expansion to Campsfield on Monday 20 October, 7.30pm. Exeter Hall, Kidlington, OX5 1AB

Come to hear more about Campsfield and the plans for expansion.

CCC expansion poster for 20 October meeting image

CCC expansion poster for 20 October meeting

Campsfield Expansion – updated

The Home Office have announced that they’re soon going to submit a planning application to expand Campsfield. We haven’t seen the application so we don’t know what their plans are. But here are three reasons why we think the government shouldn’t be trying to expand immigration detention facilities.

1) It’s wrong to lock up people who aren’t serving a sentence for a crime and who aren’t waiting to be tried for one; immigration detention is harmful to those detained and causes unnecessary suffering.

2) Locking up asylum seekers and other migrants doesn’t do what the government says it does: deter future migrants.

3) Fewer people are being deported despite the growth in detention centres, so expanding Campsfield is clearly not ‘necessary’ from the government’s point of view. It would be throwing money at a need which doesn’t exist.

If you are interested in joining the campaign to stop the doubling of the size of Campsfield, email closecampsfield@riseup.net
or call 01865 558145

Public exhibition notice

UPDATE 24 September 2014 –  The planning application still hasn’t been submitted yet but opposition is building, see the comments from the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon (the constituency that includes Campsfield) and the other candidates for the seat:

Nicola Blackwood MP has said “This proposal makes no sense for Kidlington or for our immigration system. We should be looking for alternatives to detention rather than expanding our detention programme and Campsfield House in particular has already struggled to manage with its existing numbers resulting in a series of serious incidents… I am quite clear that doubling the size of Campsfield would be wrong for Kidlington and wrong for detainees.” (Source: online petition)

Sally Copley has said “It’s clearly wrong to detain at all people who are not criminals but instead are fleeing conflict, let alone indefinitely. The Home Office have not made a satisfactory case for why they want to extend Campsfield House, and it’s a shame the District Council are only allowed to consider this on planning grounds, as there are strong humanitarian reasons for rejecting it.” (Source: quote given to Campaign to Close Campsfield.)
Layla Moran has said “We should be aiming to close the centre, not expand it… if the moral grounds for not expanding weren’t enough, in the UK the number of people being deported in the UK is in fact declining. Expanding Campsfield now makes no sense in this climate. Given that we are deporting fewer people we need to be aiming to detain fewer too. (Source: The Vulnerable Deserve To Be Treated With Compassion, Oxford Mail, 11/9/14)

Larry Sanders has said “the detention of asylum seekers… is costly, traumatic, inhumane and totally unnecessary. It would be perverse to squander large sums of money on the expansion of Campsfield and additional millions of pounds every year on maintaining it while we are said to lack the money to provide decent housing, and even adequate food, to hundreds of thousands of people.”(Source: quote given to Campaign to Close Campsfield.  Added 22/10/14)

 

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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