“Foreign criminals” face hell again at Campsfield

CAMPSFIELD IMMIGRATION REMOVAL Centre is again on the verge of serious unrest. If things “kick off” it will be the third time this year and a lot of decent, and vulnerable people will go through hell, while the right-wing press and the Home Office posture and pontificate about “foreign criminals”.

One of these is MS, to whom I spoke this afternoon. He is Jamaican; has been living, working, paying tax in Oxford (where his mother lives) since 1999; married in 2003; has children here; and applied repeatedly and unsuccessfully for a spouse’s visa. He was advised to go back to Jamaica and apply again from there. This he did in 2005 – and was again refused. Desperate to see his wife and children again he bought a false passport to return to Britain, but was apprehended, and jailed in March this year. This makes him an “FNP” (Foreign National Prisoner) and liable for deportation. He is now in Campsfield, his life in ruins, and his family’s life also in ruins.

CLIVE, ALSO A JAMAICAN, who phoned us yesterday, told us of other “FNPs” whose criminality derives from trivial driving offences that, normally, would qualify for a few penalty-points on the licence or perhaps a period of disqualification, not a prison sentence – e.g. driving on a provisional licence while not accompanied by a qualified driver; or driving with a non-UK driving licence. Like M, these men are often wrenched from jobs and families – and the families left without a breadwinner, destitute, and presumably now dependent on social services.

Clive is desperately worried about his wife and 2 children (in Birmingham, I think) who now have a £626-a-month mortgage to pay without any income.

THE COMPLAINTS AND TORMENTS he describes, which are causing so much upset and anger in the centre, are exactly the same as those that preceded the mass-breakout in August. Nothing has changed:

• Racism in the immigration court at Newport, Gwent, where detainees’ bail applications are now decided. “There is no bail for black men”, they say. Yet many of these men have major responsibilities in this country and are unlikely to abscond. Others have Human Rights appeals in process, so that they cannot be immediately deported anyway (hence their detention violates Home Office rules). Their families are obliged to travel to Newport from as far afield as Manchester to offer surety, sometimes having to stay there overnight in order to be in the court for 10am, only to see their loved ones re-incarcerated in an almost offhand, routine fashion.

• Men who have given up and wish only to go back whence they came as soon as possible, however dire the prospects, are still being held in Campsfield and other immigrant prisons for weeks and even months because the Home Office will not or cannot organise travel papers for them (but will not, of course, give them bail either). One man has been in Campsfield itself for 10 months, another for 6 months. Needless to add that this is much longer than any time limit being currently proposed for the detention of terror suspects.

• Utter squalor, terrible food, and bullying, courtesy of the notorious, US company that took over management of the centre in May 2006: GEO (“Global Expertise in Outsourcing” – previously known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation). They have now packed more than 200 men into the centre by using bunks where there used to be beds, and got rid of specialist education and healthcare provision.

• Insane insistence on removing men to places that the whole world knows are unsafe, like Iraq, Congo and Afghanistan.

• The use of isolation, and removal to other immigrant prisons, to punish men for small acts of resistance such as refusal of food. Men with families have been removed as far away as Dungavel, in Scotland, apparently out of spite, as a reprisal.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Minister, ex-Andersens consultant Liam Byrne, glories in the targets for deportations that he has met – at unimaginable and apparently unconsidered cost to the taxpayer let alone to his victims and their families.

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