Cold shoulder: UK migrants protest detention conditions with hunger strikes Live updates

A British police officer stands guard outside Harmondsworth detention centre, in west London (Reuters)
RT investigates reports of hunger strikes at various immigrant detention centers in the UK. Asylum seekers have reached out to journalists, lawyers and rights champions complaining of drastic conditions at prison-like facilities and indefinite detention.
  • 19 March 2015

    06:16 GMT

    An asylum seeker who is being held at Colnbrook detention center, Abimbola Olanweju, told RT that it is almost impossible to successfully claim asylum.

    The way the immigration system is set up in my opinion and in opinion of other people in this detention center and everyone else outside, it’s set up to fail. Because when you come in you are immediately put on what’s called the Detained Fast Track asylum claim and within it you can have a six-to-eight hour asylum interview. And within 24 hours your asylum claim is denied and you are immediately put on the next available flight out of the country.”

  • 02:34 GMT

    Several dozen asylum seekers have reportedly been sent back to Pakistan, despite facing death threats at home. While the UK Home Office refuses to give any information on deportation flights, one inmate told RT’s Laura Smith that there was a charter flight which left for Pakistan with some 50 men on board from Harmondsworth facility.

  • 18 March 2015

    22:34 GMT

    The general-secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Graham Smith, has sent a letter to the manager of Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), and another to Home Secretary Theresa May, asking for permission to visit those detainees at the facility “who we understand have been refusing food in the prison in protest at their treatment.”

    Smith wants the delegation to not only include representatives of the trade union body, but also those of Scottish churches and the Scottish Refugee Council.

    The STUC and other Scottish civil society organisations we have contacted are very concerned at reports of large numbers of detainees refusing food at the Dungavel detention centre,” Smith said in a statement.

    It is unclear whether this is a response to conditions in the centre, or wider issues relating to the asylum system, or both. But what is clear is that the decision to refuse food reflects a level of desperation which must be investigated - the mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable.”

  • 12:45 GMT

    Tamara Smillie, a public law caseworker at Duncan Lewis is among those who are trying to prevent deportations. She is worried for those who are forced to return to countries, from which they tried to flee.

    “We at Duncan Lewis stopped 19 removals to Afghanistan, the other 25 who were removed – we are looking into evidence as to what has happened to them now. I heard reports that lots of them are without any family, are homeless and on the street in Kabul living under bridges with no support,” Smillie said.

  • 11:05 GMT

  • 10:38 GMT

    The government is turning a blind eye to reports of hungers strikes at immigration removal centers, says Phil Miller, investigative journalist of Corporate Watch.

    “We have not seen any Home Office investigators go in,” Miller told RT. “And I don’t feel they are taking the situation seriously. Britain is deporting people to Sri Lanka, to Afghanistan, countries where torture and extrajudicial killings are widespread. A lot of these people are very much afraid of persecution and it’s just not being taken seriously.”

  • 07:07 GMT

    RT’s Harry Fear witnessed two buses with people inside leave Harmondsworth immigrant removal center overnight. Earlier, inmates from the center said they would be “forcefully” put on a charter flight to Pakistan, despite their fears of facing persecution there.

    One of the inmates, 43-year old Abbas Haider, a Christian who believes he will be persecuted in Pakistan for his faith, spoke to RT by phone.

    “If my life was not in danger I would never ever come here,” Haider said. “Everything I have seen in the detention center is totally unjust and unfair. My life is in danger. I have to face the society where I will now face radicalism. But I’ll try to make myself safe there. I think this is my last phone call to you and my last words. All I want to say is that I came to this country for justice and to save my life.”

  • 17 March 2015

    21:16 GMT

  • 20:37 GMT

    More than a hundred detainees are expected to leave the Harmondsworth immigrant removal center on Tuesday and board a charter flight to Pakistan, detainee Abbas told RT in a phone conversation.

    He added that most of them don’t want to leave and are “forced” to do so. If someone resists a lot than they give “injections” after which the body is “paralyzed,” he said.

    I’m very scared about the treatment, as I have seen [that] there is [an] absolute lack of healthcare inside,” Abbas said calling the situation inside “desperate.”

    The 43-year-old Pakistani national has been detained in the immigrant removal center near London since January 26.

  • 19:31 GMT

    RT spoke to one of the detainees from Mortan Hall who asked not to be named. He said that he has been in Morton Hall for one year. Contemplating the hunger strike, he said that the number of strikers is currently between 10 and 20 people.

    “There is a thick veil of secrecy surrounding these facilities,” RT’s Anastasia Churkina reported from the site. RT is trying to investigate the unconfirmed reports which are coming out from several immigrant detention centers in the UK.

    Replying to an RT inquiry the Home Office wrote that “detention and removal are essential parts of the effective immigration controls” and that “it is vital these are carried out with dignity and respect.”