Updates: 27th April: Some remain on hunger strike.
24th April: The hunger strike in Colnbrook seems to have ended [Timeline | Solidarity Page]. Meanwhile, around 20 Turkish Kurdish detainees in Harmondsworth began a hunger strike on 20 April.
17 April: About 25 detainees in Haslar have staged a peaceful protest in the courtyard early this afernoon and are still there, refusing to re-enter the building. There are also news that the hunger strike have spread to Tinsley House.
15 April: More than 120 detainees in Haslar detention centre, Protsmoth, have gone on hunger strike in protest againts arbitrary detention and in solidariety with the detainees in Colnbrook.
In protest at their inhumane treatment by security guards during the No Borders demonstration last Saturday (8th April, 2006), over 150 detainees in Colnbrook detention centre went on hunger strike. According to the latest updates, nearly 100 of them are still on indefinite hunger strike. A delegation from the Home Office is supposed to pay them a visit to hear their demands for release. [Strike update 17/04]
The hunger strikers have been subject to repression from Colnbrook’s management, with one detainee, deemed to be the "organiser" of the protest, having been locked in an isolation cell on Saturday night, then later removed to another detention centre.
Many of the people inside Colnbrook have been there for over 6 months, with some being detained for up to 3 years. There is no automatic bail review process for immigrants who are being detained. Last January, a detainee at Harmondsworth Detention Centre took his own life out of despair. Fellow detainees responded with a one-day hunger strike and a written statement about their conditions and treatment in detention.
On Thursday 13, a solidarity protest took place outside the Home Office building in central London [Report and Pics]. This had been urgently called by London No Borders and The Square Social Centre. On Satuday 15 No Borders fundraiser also took place in London. And on Thursday 20 Cardiff saw another solidarity demonstration called by the No Borders South Wales group.
Side view of Colnbrook. No, it's not a prison, they say, just a detention centre
While the demonstration on Saturday was ongoing, inmates inside Colnbrook were forbidden access to the exercise yard and prevented by guards from looking out of windows to see or hear the demonstration. It was reported by detainees that some were beaten up and locked in their cells. Visiting hours in both Harmondsworth and Colnbrook had also been shortened on that day.
In response to this treatment, some 120 detainees refused food and water on Saturday. The hunger strike soon spread to all 4 wings of Colnbrook with about 150 detainees participating. Some of them said they would rather die in Colnbrook than return to countries where they would face further imprisonment, torture and possible death:
"The hunger strike in Colnbrook will go ahead until we're dead, because to deport us to our countries is like killing us. So we've decided to die with hunger" - Patrick, a detainee on hunger strike.
97 detainees, from various countries, have also signed a statement that read:
"Detention for immigration purposes can clearly be lawful given the very wide powers allowed under the immigration acts but it is subject to constraints as follows:
- It is only lawful if exercised for one of the purposes allowed under immigration law.
- It is only lawful if it is for a reasonable period of time.
- It is only lawful if the Home Secretary exercises reasonable expedition.
If you have been detained for more than 6 weeks consecutively, and you wish to be included in the Judicial Review claim against the Secretary of State for the Home Office for our right to liberty according to the Human Rights Act 1998/ECHR, International Law and the Home Office's own policy on prolonged detention, please sign up below."
Colnbrook, which is adjacent to Heathrow Airport, is one of 10 so-called Immigration Reception and Removal Centres across the UK and the latest to be added to the network. The facility opened in September, 2004, and has a capacity of 303 people. It is managed by Premier Group on behalf of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.
Of the UK’s 10 detention centres, 7 are run by private companies. They hold failed asylum seekers and "illegal" immigrants due for deportation, as well as new asylum seekers whom the authorities believe may disappear from the system. Up to 2,600 people can be held in these centres.