No end in sight to Kent prison hunger strike

Only one of the asylum seekers being held Rochester prison was still rejecting fluids yesterday, as a fellow hunger striker narrowly escaped death after being rushed to hospital.

Meanwhile, the Prisons minister, Ann Widdecombe, cautiously welcomed an offer of help by the Bishop of Rochester but still refused to negotiate with the detainees. "I do not have a deal to offer," she told Radio 4's Sunday Programme. "But I would welcome anything that would assist them coming off the protest."

Fourteen inmates from Nigeria, Algeria, Romania and Zaire have been on hunger strike in the Kent prison for four weeks, claiming they are being treated like convicted criminals while their asylum applications are processed. They have pledged to continue for another two weeks.

The situation became more serious last week when six detainees started refusing water. A Nigerian pastor, Ejike Emenike, 30, was rushed into hospital to have rehydration treatment. He has now rejoined the six men in the hospital wing of the prison. A further eight are refusing food in the prison wings, according to Home Office reports. "None of them are giving cause for immediate concern," said a spokesman yesterday.

On Saturday, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the prison in support of the detainees. They marched around to the side of the prison, cheering when the detainees shouted for their freedom over the walls.

Brian Dubs, spokesman for the Rochester Hunger Strikers' Support Group and Hackney representative for Unison, the public sector union, said: "We wanted to draw as much attention to these people who are just being treated as though they are criminals. The Government seems to be taking an even harder line. They are prepared to allow them to die."

Supporters claim that many inmates have languished in jail for two years while applications are being processed, and one man is still in Rochester seven months after he signed papers for voluntary deportation.

Margaret Illin, whose husband Mircea was detained in Rochester prison for four months last year before being released, said the detainees are often treated worse than convicted criminals.

"Sometimes [after] they receive a visitor they are forced to undergo a strip search," she said. "When all the time they have not done anything wrong. These people have escaped persecution in their own country and come here where they should be safe, but then they are treated worse than criminals."

Maureen West, whose boyfriend Ben Bakesh Hamel is in the hospital wing, is anxious for information about his health. "It is starting to tell on me now," she said. "I phoned this morning and I know that he is not in hospital but I can't get any more information. I don't know much about the political side of it. But I don't think it's fair. I can't see the point in letting people die."

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London