5 Oct to 11 Oct – the Unlocking Detention team looks back on the week they visited Campsfield, Oxfordshire.

Unlocking Detention visited Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre just as the most controversial development was taking place in the area.

Recently, the Home Office made it clear that it intends to increase the size of  the detention from 276 beds to 560 beds.

Our member, Campaign to Close Campsfield, has been leading the voice of opposition against this plan.  Their public meeting was to take place on 20 Oct and the emotions were running rather high.

Campsfield House is a relatively small and, dare we say, has a more relaxed environment than other detention centres in the UK.  Of course, we say this only relatively, knowing what Category B equivalent centres such as Colnbrook and Brook House are like. It is still detention nevertheless and people inside simply feel imprisoned.  This also does not mean that it should be expanded.

Perhaps because of its proximity to a world-famous university town with (probably) a fair number of politically active residents, Campsfield is unique among all sites of immigration detention in the UK in that it has a long history of local, sustained, opposition to the centre.

We wanted to capture this sense of sustained local opposition, the everyday of their activism.  So we asked some members of Campaign to Close Campsfield to jot down their experience of their monthly (yes, monthly) protests as well as visiting the centre.  Their words were turned into a short blog, ‘What is it like being a local campaign group?‘ At the Detention Forum, the tension between protest and “visiting”, demanding change and potentially sustaining the system, continues to be discussed at regular intervals.

Aside from Campaign to Close Campsfield (whom you can follow on Twitter @CloseCampsfield and shared their comments on Campsfield during the tour), another active member @MBEGriffiths helped us a great deal by sharing her insight into how men held Campsfield experience their detention.  Her tweets about Campsfield are definitely worth reading.

This tour has also given us an opportunity to revisit some of the great material that we know exist, but we don’t always remember to share with others.  There are in fact short films, paintings, pod casts about immigration detention.  What’s unfortunate is that we can’t always remember what’s available out there.

Another organisation Migrants Resource Centre shared with us this beautiful and poignant photo essay about one person’s experience of immigration detention.  We highly recommend this too.

We also asked Melanie to write a piece for our collaborative project with openDemocracy.  Her piece focused on how various incidents are packaged by the media and the general public, while a completely different story actually emerges if we care to listen to those who are inside.

For another piece for this week, we asked one of our members RAMFEL (@RAMFELCharity) to write more broadly about immigration enforcement. Various new initiatives on the back of Hostile Environment campaign are now creeping into our communities.  The piece, Migrant vs non-migrant: two-tier policing describes a murky world where immigration enforcement overlaps with policing, which is hardly ever talked about in the public domain.

Lastly, the reminder that we think we know detention but we don’t…

By Unlocking Detention team