Asylum seekers' protest spreads

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The Independent Online
HUNGER strikes among asylum seekers at immigration detention centres throughout Britain were spreading last night. More than 200 people were refusing to eat.

The demonstrations are against the Government's policy of locking up people for up to a year while cases are processed.

They began nine days ago at Campsfield House detention centre at Kidlington, near Oxford, where 105 people are on hunger strike, 12 of whom have been put under medical supervision after refusing food for more than a week. Some of the detainees, who are from Asia, Africa and South America, are taking liquids, including sweetened tea.

The protests are now taking place at 10 detention centres and prisons, with at least 219 people refusing to eat. At Haslar prison in Gosport, Hampshire, 59 people are on hunger strike. A further 19 are refusing to eat at Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, and 18 in Canterbury prison in Kent.

It is known that nine asylum seekers at Campsfield have been transferred to prisons in the past two days for being 'disruptive'. The immigration service intervened after Group 4 initially refused to tell solicitors where people had been sent.

The detainees have complained about being 'treated like prisoners' and want to be freed while their cases are processed. They have also alleged inhumane treatment and psychological torture.

The Labour Party is calling for an independent inquiry into treatment at detention centres, which hold a mixture of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. In January, there were 622 immigration detainees.

The Home Office said: 'There have been some discussions over recent days about whether the contract for medical care at Campsfield House, which is sub-contracted by Group 4, should be extended for the care of those refusing food.

'The Immigration Service has decided to bring in extra care on a temporary basis to cope with the unusual situation.'

It added that existing sub-contract arrangements would remain for the medical needs of other detainees.