Week 6: #Unlocked17 visits Campsfield House

The focus of this week’s #Unlocked17 tour was Campsfield House, near Oxford airport. It has been an immigration detention centre for almost a quarter of a century – a 24th anniversary demonstration took place this week.

Since it was converted from a young offender institution to a detention centre in November 1993, over 30,000 people have been detained here.

Up to 282 men can be held here at any one time. In 2015, local action helped to prevent it from being doubled in size.

An introduction to Campsfield, in tweets

Walls of Resistance

This week we heard from Jose of Freed Voices, who was detained in Campsfield. He talks us through the pictures on his wall, describing those who inspired him musically and politically while in detention (and afterwards).

He tells us about how detention politicised him, and made him believe that change is both necessary and possible. In a powerful call-to-action, he says, “Detention… will only change if people in the street are engaged with it. Rightly or wrongly, this government was chosen by the people. The responsibility for the human disgrace of detention must be shared. It is not just the government to blame. The people themselves need to remember their own role in a parliamentary democracy. They have to remind the MPs that they are representing them and their values.” 

(Have you written to your MP? If not, there’s some more info about why you should contact them, and what to say, here. You can find your MP here.)

Also on the blog this week:

On Tuesday, we heard from North East London Migrant Action (NELMA) and the Public Interest Law Unit at Lambeth Law Centre. The have been granted permission for a judicial review of the Home Office’s policy of detaining and deporting homeless EU citizens. In this blog, they tell the stories of Mihal and Teodora, EU citizens who were detained for sleeping rough.

On Wednesday, Toufique Hossain, Director of Public Law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, wrote about the strategic litigation case of “slave wages” in detention centres. Detention centre providers employ those who are detained to do essential work for them, with a maximum wage set by the Home Office of £1 an hour.

Toufique concludes, “We will keep fighting for an end to this state-sanctioned slavery. Like immigration detention as a whole, there is absolutely no place for it in a civilised society, but it is happening just down the road.”

For Thursday’s blog, we went back to Campsfield. Ruth Nicholson, a musician, and a volunteer both for Music In Detention (MID) and the Detention Forum, described a day of songwriting workshops in Campsfield House. You can also watch a film about MID’s work in Campsfield:

Dan Godshaw wrote a blog highlighting the findings and recommendations of a new piece of research that he conducted with Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG). You can read the blog here, and the full report here.

The research uncovers the ways in which people who arrived in the UK when they were under 18 become detained as adults, and explores how detention affects them as a distinctive group.

The final blog of the week came from Bridget Walker, part of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network. She says, “When I first visited someone in immigration detention I knew I must speak out. It is one of the darkest corners of our asylum system and not widely known. It is against our testimony to equality and must be brought into the light and brought to an end.”

 24th Anniversary Demonstration

On Saturday 25th November, there was a 24th anniversary demonstration at Campsfield House, organised by the Campaign to Close Campsfield.

Both of Oxford’s two MPs – Layla Moran MP (Oxford West), and Anneliese Dodds MP (Oxford East) – spoke at the demonstration, showing their support for detention reform.

Layla Moran said she has “always felt the system is broken, and that it is a slight on society that these centres even exist – let alone that we are one of the few developed countries where we have indefinite detention”.

Anneliese Dodds MP called the centre “a stain on our here in conscience in Oxford”. In five months of casework (since she became an MP), she is already seeing the impact that indefinite detention has on people’s physical and mental health, and the “gradual grinding down people feel when they don’t know when they will be with their families or have a normal life”.

Dungavel demonstration

Also this week, a group from Justice and Peace Scotland gathered outside Dungavel (in the snow!).

Unlocking Detention’s virtual tour of Dungavel will take place from the 11th – 17th December – follow us on Twitter and via #Unlocked17 to join us.

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