Immigration centre detainees on hunger strike

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The Independent Online

More than 100 people in an immigration centre were on hunger strike today.

Officials at the UK Border Agency confirmed they were "monitoring" the situation at Campsfield House immigration removal centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, after detainees refused their evening meal.

Jonathan Sedgwick, UKBA deputy chief executive, said: "We can confirm 108 detainees have refused prepared meals from staff yesterday evening.

"However they still have access to food from the on-site shop and vending machines.

"Staff are monitoring the situation closely and listening to the detainees' concerns.

"All detainees have access to legal representation and 24-hour medical care."

The Yarl's Wood site holds people awaiting deportation but has been strongly criticised over reports that children have been denied medical treatment, subjected to violence and forced to undress in front of officers of the opposite sex.

Yarl's Wood has 284 beds for women and 121 family bed spaces, according to the UKBA.

The centre, on the outskirts of Clapham, was originally opened in November 2001.

In February 2002 half of the building was damaged by fire. The undamaged half reopened in September 2003.

Last month, the Home Office was forced to clarify comments by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after he told MPs the centre was to close.

Officials swiftly pointed out that only the family unit at Yarl's Wood would in fact shut, and the centre would "continue to function as an immigration removal facility for adults".

The clarification came after Mr Clegg told the Commons the coalition Government would shortly be outlining how it would deliver its pledge to shut Yarl's Wood "for good".

Mr Clegg said at Prime Minister's Questions that it was a "moral outrage" that the previous Labour government locked up 1,000 children "who were innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever".

He added: "I can confirm that the Government will come forward shortly with an announcement about how we will deliver on our pledge to end child detention and to close the Yarl's Wood detention centre for good."

But a later statement from the Home Office said: "The new Government has been clear in its commitment to end the detention of children and this includes those held in the family wing at Yarl's Wood.

"We are currently working to find an alternative that protects the welfare of children, without undermining our immigration laws.

"Yarl's Wood family unit will be closed, but the centre will continue to function as an immigration removal facility for adults."