Campsfield

Week 6: #Unlocked16 visits Campsfield House

This week, Unlocking Detention shone a spotlight on Campsfield House detention centre in Kidlington, a village 7 miles from Oxford. Up to 282 men are locked up there.  Campsfield House was originally a young offender’s institution and became an immigration detention centre in 1993.

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The first piece published this week was a powerful but devastating read, and is the one of the most engaged-with pieces we’ve had so far.   Mishka was detained along with his twin, with terrible consequences.

I am a twin. We are identical – he has long hair, but no beard. We came here together. We were young in our twenties when we came to the UK. We were always very, very close. We have a twin connection in our minds. I don’t feel physical pain when someone hit him on the other side of the world, but I feel it on an emotional level.

When we came to the UK, we only had each other. We lived in the same room. We went to the same university. We had the same part-time jobs. We always used to talk to each other. We always talked about the situation; why we came, what is happening back home because of our decision coming to save our lives, what we should do next.

We spoke a lot together about applying for asylum, but we were scared. The government back home tortured my mother because we left. And they told her we must never speak about what is happening in my country.

Home Office picked us up together from our home. They specifically came for us. They asked the landlady: “Are the twins in?”

It was just the two of us in the Tascor van. We thought that we are being sent to get killed. We thought we going to be deported back to our mother’s torturers.

Read Mishka’s piece here

The second piece of Campsfield week was by Liz Peretz of the Campaign to Close Campsfield. Liz wrote of the failures of healthcare in detention, and the complicated mechanisms of its operation that make campaigning for change such a complicated business!

Read “Healthcare: a labyrinthine system. A Campsfield case study.”

New members of the Detention Forum, Liberty, got stuck into Unlocking Detention with a great piece in the Huffington Post.  Liberty director Martha Spurrier wrote that shining a light on indefinite detention is more important than ever.

Read Liberty’s #Unlocked16 article here

And it didn’t end there!  In a vital article, Melanie Griffiths (an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow and Senior Research Associate at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol) wrote for the blog of the Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society (COMPAS), at the University of Oxford.

Foreign national prisons – and the Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) that offenders move onto after completing their sentences – are spaces where this messy business of boundary-making occurs: where attempts are made to separate citizen from non-citizen, the ‘good’ migrant from the ‘bad’, the deportable from those who can successfully assert a claim to belong…

Campsfield House is only six miles away from COMPAS, and yet such sites, and indeed the very practice of immigration detention, remains peculiarly out of sight. Attempting to raise awareness, the Detention Forum’s online initiative #Unlocked16, undertakes an annual two month-long virtual ‘tour’ of the UK’s detention estate. Now in its third year, this social media project ‘visits’ every site of immigration detention in the UK, including Campsfield this week and prisons previously. Tweets, blog posts and an interactive weekly Twitter-based Q&A with someone currently detained, help shine a spotlight on immigration detention.

This year, #Unlocked16’s theme is ‘Friends and Family’, acknowledging that in addition to people actually detained, immigration detention affects those like Amir and the families we waited with at that prison. Fundamentally, as Musa and Amir show us, immigration enforcement is a phenomenon that goes beyond the detained individual and traditional IRC sites, and that is entering new places and encompassing new groups. This is a trend some years in the making but that is accelerating with policies that lengthen and entrench the precariousness of non-citizens (and increasingly also of new and dual-citizens), and that multiply the spaces in which immigration checks and exclusions occur.

Read Melanie’s article here

This week, the live Q and A with someone detained was actually with two people, Christopher and Jose, two friends detained in Campsfield House.  In this far-ranging interview, we learned about life in Campsfield House, the impact of detention on people’s health, spirit and relationships, and what people experiencing this brutal policy first-hand, think it’s all about.

Read the full Q and A here

We started Unlocking Detention with an article about the project in Italian, and this week the project has been shared all the way across the world in Australia!

And Right to Remain have been taking Unlocking Detention on tour… not quite as far flung as Australia, but Manchester, Cambridge, Essex and Golders Green have pretty exciting in themselves! Thanks to Detention Action, René Cassin, Manchester Migrant Solidarity and Volunteer Action for Peace for being part of this non-stop road trip.

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