Campaign to Close Campsfield is a campaign group based in Oxford which has been calling for a closure of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre for many years. They are one of the members of the Detention Forum. We asked them to tell us a little about their daily activities.
“Going out last weekend for our monthly protest. There were around 15 people gathered just outside the high barbed wire fence topped IRC (Immigration Removal Centre) that is Campsfield House.
Trades unionists; an Anglican minister; post graduate students; a journalist; a couple of writers; the usual broad group of concerned citizens, young and old.
Facing the prison and the rooms where detainees sleep we made some contact by waving and shouting. One voice said ‘get us out of here!’.
One of the guards complained that someone should get off his car. (The Anglican minister was resting on his bonnet).
We walked around the perimeter fences past the signs of earlier peace camps (freedom on the wall of an outbuilding). It was a perfect autumn day; crab apples in the stubble field. We made more contact around the back; a sheet waved from one window.
Across a long field, behind two high fences topped with rolls of barbed wire, some men had gathered in the yard. We explained as usual who we were, and why we were there; and that we would continue until IRCs were a thing forgotten in the past.”
Visiting people detained in Campsfield
“You must, of course, leave mobile phone etc in a locker. Your prints and picture are taken – I was interested to see that my details were still on file when I visited in June, although it must be well over a year since I was last in. It was pretty much like visiting a prison – I have been to Holloway and Whitemoor in the past. I have also visited Yarl’s Wood – a more difficult and daunting experience.
We saw the room where detainees go for video link hearings. It is small and claustrophobic and one can imagine how stressful it is to be in there on your own trying to apply for bail, and perhaps relying on a lawyer and interpreter who are present in the court in Newport, not at your side.
We also saw the faith corridor where there is provision for Hindu, Christian and Muslim worship. There is an ablution area in the last, and when we joined the barbecue there was vegetarian food.
So efforts are made to accommodate some of the detainees’ needs. But of course their greatest need and desire is to be released. Nothing can make up for the deprivation of liberty.
A former detainee said to me once ‘I suppose you can say they give you food and you have a roof over your head, but it is horrible, horrible’.”