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.

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