++ After another week of strikes and protests, the GEO-managed centre explodes – for the 2nd time in 6 months ++
Following a yard-protest by over 150 detainees on Tuesday night, a hunger strike on Wednesday, a long, angry meeting with Home Office representatives on Friday followed by a further yard protest Friday night, the centre has in the last few hours narrowly escaped total meltdown. Even so, a contact inside the centre reckons that “between 20 and 50” have escaped. As we left the centre at just after 1am we heard that perhaps 7 had been recaptured.
We had the first message just after 10.30 yesterday evening: detainees were being evacuated into the yard because of a fire in the centre’s makeshift kitchen – a Portakabin where the centre’s detested diet of chips is prepared. There was a risk the large gas bottles stacked outside would explode.
Then, at about 10:45, we heard that a group of detainees were smashing through the back gate.
When we got to the centre at (I think) about eleven thirty the detainees were just being marshalled back into their cells and locked in. A helicopter was circling around. No fewer than eight fire appliances were there. Hoses were being paid out although the kitchen fire had reportedly been extinguished.
Then our contact phoned (it might have been just before 1 am) to say that a new fire had broken out in one of the accommodation blocks. They were all being evacuated into the yard again. Then another call: another group were going to try to break out. This didn’t succeed. About 6 police vehicles were already at the side gate, with dogs in vans, and some officers donning riot gear. There was a moment of drama when the “spacemen” approached the penned-in detainees and were pelted mud, small stones and insults.
It looked as if that was about it, so we came home. No messages since.