Some 50 refugees held at Campsfield immigration prison, near Oxford, are on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention. The hunger strike was started on August 9th by 13 Iraqi-Kurdish detainees, who demanded that forcible deportations to Northern Iraq are stopped. This is the second such protest at Campsfield this year and one of many throughout the UK detention estate.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi-Kurdish refugee has taken his own life after being forcibly returned to Iraqi Kurdistan. Hussein Ali shot himself in his home in Sulaimania on August 10th, two days after he was deported to Erbil via Jordan. An emergency demonstration in support of the hunger strikers, called by the Campaign to Close Campsfield, was held outside the immigration prison on August 12th.
banners on the razorwire fence
On August 9th, campaigners received reports from detainees inside Campsfield saying that 13 Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers detained at Campsfield immigration prison are refusing food in protest at their continuing detention and demanding that forcible deportations to Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq) are stopped. Later reports confirmed that some 50 other Campsfield detainees from around the world have joined the hunger strike. A message from the hunger strikers read:
"We are protest[ing] because we are human beings; we are not criminal. We are locked in the cell like prisoners. We want freedom and justice."
The UK is one off the few European countries to forcibly 'remove' asylum seekers to Iraq. In 2005, an agreement was reportedly signed between the Iraqi Government, the Kurdish Regional Government and the UK Home Office to accept forcibly returned asylum seekers. Since then, over 500 rejected asylum seekers have been deported to Iraqi Kurdistan on special charter flights.
The argument the Home Office has used to deport Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers to Kurdistan (northern Iraq) is that the northern parts of the country, unlike the rest, are "relatively safe". This is, of course, totally unfounded. In its position paper on Iraq, UNHCR recently said that the security situation in the three northern governorates (Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Duhok), "remains tense and unpredictable" and that "careful consideration" must be given before any returns are carried out.
A day after the hunger strike started, an Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seeker, who was forcibly removed to Northern Iraq after 50 days in detention, took his own life. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) was told by a detainee in Oakington detention centre that his friend, Hussein Ali, shot himself in his home in Sulaimania on August 10th, two days after he was deported to Erbil via Jordan.
Hussein Ali was 35 years old. He had arrived in the UK six years earlier but his asylum claim was rejected. Whilst in detention, he wrote many letters to the Home Office asking to remain in the UK but all fell on deaf ears.
This is the second this year suicide by Iraqi-Kurdish refugees on return from the UK. The other man, known as Heman, hanged himself from a tree shortly after return. Another Iraqi-Kurdish refugee, Kadir Salih, was kidnapped last month in front of his house in an area controled of Patriotic of Union Kurdistan party shortly after returning home. His daughter was so distressed at his disappearance that she committed suicide. After five years of fighting for asylum and not being able to work, Kadir had given up and signed on the IOM's 'voluntary return' scheme.
Another Iraqi refugee died from cancer on August 3rd. Mohammad Hussain had stomach cancer that went undetected and untreated while he was detained in Lindholme immigration prison near Doncaster (see here for more details).
Meanwhile, Iranian refugee Nadir Zarebee hanged himself in a Manchester park on August 5th after being asked to leave his home in Trafford by his private asylum accommodation providers, MNQ. An emergency protest was called last on August 9th by the International Organisation of Iranian Refugees (IOIR) and supported by the North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG) and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI). Protesters gathered in Piccadilly Gardens and then marched to the BBC offices, who protesters said censor the "racist treatment and brutal human rights abuses of migrants and refugees."
Hata Najem has been given a date to travel on 3/9/08. He has been in the UK for 8
Ali Ahmed Hassan is reported to now be very sick, but has apparently only seen the doctor once.
The treatment all the men are receiving is described as poor. Fazzel has said that one guard in particular, * ******, has been verbally abusive to the detainees, telling them that he's happy they're not eating as it's a saving to the taxpayer and giving detainees quite graphic descriptions of what he would like to do to them if there were no CCTV in the centre.
Mr. ****** has also been alleged to have physically pushed detainees and verbally abused them for requesting guards' ID details.
The general disrespectful attitude of the staff is described as central to the detainees' decision to go on hunger strike and Fazzel describes, for example, a customary practice of detainees' meals being kicked across the floor to them by guards, rather than passed by hand.
Fazzel also claims that a proposed BBC local radio interview was blocked by Campsfield management this morning; he claims that the reporter has been given misleading information to the effect that the detainees have criminal convictions. They do not.
15.08.2008 16:08Speaking to some of the detainees at midday today, they were all resolute to continue refusing food, until their basic demands are met: released from detention and to be recognised as refugees.
One detainee managed to get on to the roof of Campsfield IRC yesterday but came down after a number of hours. He is now in the Health Care unit at the detention centre.
Spokesperson for the Kurdish hunger strikers Fazzel Abdul said: "Without any reason we are being held here and they are trying to deport us to the most dangerous country in the world. We want people to listen to us. We are refusing all food and water and we will keep going. It is better to be dead than to return to Iraq."
Related: Riot at Campsfield Detention Centre | 26 migrants escape immigration prison in Oxford | Detained Mothers on Hunger Strike in Yarl's Wood | Once again, Harmondsworth hunger strike broken violently | Dozens of Iraqi Kurds deported.. again