by Joanna Engle
Unknown to many, North Oxford is the home to one of the UK’s ten immigration removal centres. Campsfield opened in 1993 and its detainees have included refugees, asylum seekers, foreign national offenders, and ‘overstayers’. All of them are held without charge, without a time limit, often without legal representation.
Around 25,000 people are detained under immigration law each year across the UK. This is purely administrative detention: none of the detainees are officially charged with an offence, and there is no due process. From data based on the 6,337 people detained in early 2011, asylum seekers made up 2,938 of the detainees and a total of 3,850 ended up being deported.
The centres are run for-profit by private security companies that claim to offer care and security. However, the effects of detention are often devastating. In 2005, 18-year-old Ramazan Kumluca was found dead in Campsfield after waiting months to be deported, and there are many more stories like his. There are also many reports of abuse and apathy from guards.
On 9th November 2018, the Home Office announced that Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre will close in May 2019. This closure comes after 25 years of tireless organising by Oxford residents, led by the Campaign to Close Campsfield and End All Immigration Detention, and directly following the Stephen Shaw report. This report was concerned with the government’s progress in addressing the shocking welfare issues that those in detention face. The Home Office has now committed to cutting down on the number of people held in detention at any one time by up to 40%.
Even with the announced closure, Campaign to Close Campsfield will be holding their 25th anniversary demonstration outside Campsfield. Not only is solidarity with detainees still needed, but it is also crucial to recognize that this does not end with Campsfield. The injustice of immigration detention continues across the UK, from Yarl’s Wood to Morton Hall. Cutting down on the detention centres, and improving their conditions, is a start, but we must work for a complete end to the hostile environment, which is exacerbated by the very existence of immigration detention centres.
There are many ways to get involved. If you have 5 minutes, read and retweet the Freed Voices twitter (https://twitter.com/FreedVoices) or use the #timeforatimelimit hashtag. If you have 30 minutes, write to your MP or do some research about immigration detention in the UK. There are many reports and documentaries available online. For a more long-term involvement, it is worth looking into local migrant organisations. In Oxford, there is Asylum Welcome, Oxford Migrant Solidarity, Star, and many others. Close Campsfield particularly recommend trying to help at Open Door Oxford (http://opendooroxford.org.uk/Volunteer.html), where refugees and asylum seekers get free lunch, advice and friendly conversation every Thursday.
If you are free this Saturday, join Oxford campaigners outside Campsfield to celebrate its planned closure with those still inside, and continue the work to end all immigration detention.
Photograph of IRC Morton Hall available from the Home Office on Wikicommons
Disclaimer: this article does not necessarily represent the official political stance of The Poor Print, Oriel College or its members.