FOR IMMEDIATE USE
13 DARFURI MEN ON HUNGER STRIKE AT CAMPSFIELD DETENTION CENTRE, OXFORDSHIRE
DETENTION CENTRE MANAGEMENT ATTEMPT COVER-UP AND REFUSE PRE BOOKED VISITORS
13 men from Darfur region of Sudan have been on hunger strike for 6 days at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre in Kidlington, near Oxford.
They are all being held in detention without time limit and without any idea as to what will happen to them or when they will be released or removed. They have been held for varying periods of time; the longest being six months. They are demanding that they all be released and granted asylum, but would rather they were removed (to a safe place) than held arbitrarily with no time limit. They have also complained of their treatment inside the centre, saying that they came here asking for refuge, and instead have been locked up and badly treated. One man who was on hunger strike has already been released.
They come from all three regions of Darfur and include members of the Zaghawa, Tama, Mirra, Berti, and Tunjur tribes. At least one of the hunger strikers is a confirmed torture survivor with visible wounds, who is well-known in his home town of Nyala and whose name is instantly recognisable to many Sudanese in the UK. Torture survivors are not supposed to be held in immigration detention under UK law, but campaigning groups say that this law is regularly flouted by the UK Border Agency.
The hunger strikers requested visits and various supporters from Oxford independently organised visits for the evening of 30 May. Despite pre-arranging visits each of the visitors was turned away on different spurious reasons (some with no reason given) once detention centre management realised they were visiting Sudanese men. (Two other regular visitors who were not visiting any of the hunger strikers but who happened to arrive at a similar time were also turned away with no reasons given.) The first visitors, Nazar Eltahir (Chair of the Sudanese community in Oxford) and Tim Flatman (a human rights activist who regularly travels to Sudan/South Sudan and supports Sudanese and South Sudanese migrants in the UK) were told that the person they were visiting had told staff they were not expecting a visitor and had not heard of them. They asked staff to check again with him and after supposedly doing so the same statement was repeated. Staff said they had spoken to him through a translation service. On leaving the detention centre and phoning the man they were due to visit, he told them that he was expecting the visit and no staff from the detention centre had spoken to him or asked him whether he was expecting a visit or not. Other visitors were told that they had not pre-booked despite their names being clearly visible on the pre-booked list lying on the reception desk.
Supporters have vowed to try and visit the hunger strikers again to support them and intend to submit a complaint alleging that detention centre management attempted to cover up the hunger strike and illegally refused and lied to visitors to the company who manage Campsfield (Mitie), to the Independent Monitoring Board, to the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and to the Minister for Immigration tomorrow (31 May) through their local MP. A demonstration in support of the hunger strikers for Friday 1 June at 6pm in Carfax, Oxford, has also been called by the local Sudanese community and various campaigning and human rights organisations. All are welcome.
1. Nazar Eltahir can be contacted on 07810890901 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Tim Flatman can be contacted on 07595 908 405 or at email@example.com
3. The hunger strikers can be contacted by phone and are willing to give interviews to press but speak mainly Sudanese Arabic. Contact Nazar or Tim to arrange an interview.