At least 150 detainees in Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre, near Heathrow, are now on mass hunger strike. The detainees have been holding a protest all day in the main courtyard of the migration prison. The protestors have all signed a statement (see below) explaining their demands and saying that they have started a hunger strike. Some are refusing water as well as food. A number of protestors who have health problems or are due to be deported imminently are also part of the protest but are eating. 100 people are still occupying the main courtyard currently (8.30 PM) but others are continuing their protest inside as night falls. One man who is part of the protest has already been on an individual hunger strike for 67 days and is now extremely weak.
The detainees are asking for all help possible to get their message outside to the world. The prison authorities have now shut off email and fax access, but currently we still have phone contact with some detainees.
Here is the petition signed by the detainees and handed to the prison authorities:
As to resolve the following issues
* Home Office fast track system [NB: system in which refugees are immediately detained whilst their asylum claims are processed]
* Healthcare in the detention centre
* Detainees are awaiting to travel to their home countries for months, without any response from the home office, when have agreed to voluntary return. One person has been waiting for 17months.
* People who were transferred from other centres on a promise for interview or high commission face to face interviews are still waiting to send back to their centre such as people from scotland are still stuck here without lawyers, guests.
* we are not getting enough legal help, in some cases no legal advice at all our important faxes and documents are waiting sometimes for four to five hours in the IRC office before they reach us.
* We need to resolve this face to face by the official immigration staff who record this complaint – this petition and peaceful protest- then we will consider to withdraw this hunger strike.
We are block C and D, and also A and B about to start peaceful protest and hunger strike.
For more information please contact The Unity Centre on 0141 427766 OR 07448 617766. We can redirect journalists to detainees.
On Harmondsworth, one of Europe’s largest migration prisons: http://detentionaction.org.uk/aboutus/about-harmondsworth-detention-centre
On the cruel ‘Detained Fast Track’ system of imprisoning asylum seekers: http://ncadc.org.uk/blog/detention-action-detained-fast-track-denies-access-to-justice/
On the background to the major protests in 2006: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/dec/13/immigration.prisonsandprobation