No Borders London has called another demonstration at the headquarters of Kalyx, the private company that runs Harmondsworth immigration detention centre. We will be demanding that closure of the centre and supporting the detainees who demonstrated in defence of their freedom in late November.
Details: Monday 18th December, 4:30 - 5:30pm at Kalyx, 25 Chapel Street, NW1 5DH (Edgware Road Tube Station).
Extracts from What really happenened at Harmondsworth? - article in the Guardian this week:
'Millions of pounds' damage was caused as fires were lit, windows smashed, walls knocked down and security cameras wrenched from the walls. All four wings of the privately run facility - through which more than 2,000 failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants pass each year - were affected
Eddie, a Nigerian failed asylum seeker, claims to have been beaten over an altercation in the food queue three weeks before the riots. He says a female officer took issue with the way he handed her his ID card. "She immediately got on the radio: 'Tango One, Tango Two, there's a guy causing trouble,' Then about 12 officers came, grabbed me and took me to the secure unit. Five of them took turns to punch me in the face. But I couldn't complain because they would give me another IP."
One man awaiting deportation also says he was placed in solitary confinement for a week after a dispute over an ID card he forgot to take to lunch. "The 'govs' came for me. For or five of them came at me, holding me up against the wall, then they took me [to] secure." He was not beaten, he says, but in a previous incident his friend "got punched up for no reason. They stepped on his back. They really beat him up. Kicked him in his face and his head."
But it was the general rudeness of the guards, confirmed in last month's report, that upset most detainees. "It's tough in there," says a Kenyan failed asylum seeker. "You're treated like a slave." Sam, a 33-year-old from Kenya, adds: "The officers treated us very badly every day - they showed us no respect ... You know, just because we are detainees does not mean we are not human beings or that we should not be treated with dignity and respect or that we do not have human rights."
The centre also held foreign nationals awaiting repatriation after completing custodial sentences. They had a different set of grievances. Of the 484 detainees at Harmondsworth on November 29, 177 fell into the category of so-called foreign criminals - a population that had expanded rapidly after a clampdown eight months ago on foreign nationals remaining in the country after completing prison sentences.
Joseph, a grandfather from Leeds who came to Britain from Jamaica aged 13, says he is being deported to Jamaica ("where I have nobody") after serving a three-month sentence for cannabis offences. He was transferred to Harmondsworth four months ago from another detention facility to await a review of his case in the high court.
"I'm a foreign criminal now, a foreign prisoner," he says. "I know several people in similar circumstances to me. They went to school here, worked here, and because they committed offences, they are now banged up, waiting to be sent to a country they don't know. The Home Office are confused. They don't know who to release and who to deport. But if you're here, you have no idea how long they will keep you. It's a nightmare. I had better facilities in prison."