Inmates live in fear at detention centre

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The Independent Online
CAMPSFIELD House, near Kidlington in Oxfordshire, sounds like something akin to a rural retreat. Even the Immigration Service portrays it as a state-of-the-art-detention centre with library, sports room and facilities for worship, writes Ian MacKinnon.

But to the 200 asylum seekers held there it is something different. No less than a prison, with cameras at every turn and 20ft high fences, to hold immigrants for months on end even though they have been convicted of no crime.

Eight days ago, the frustration of being held in such uncertainty while their pleas for asylum are assessed came to a head and some of the detainees began a hunger strike to highlight their plight. But fear of being singled out by guards at the centre makes those who talk of their situation cautious.

One such detainee, a French-speaking African, fled his homeland on 19 July on release from jail after being arrested for distributing documents for the opposition in his country's one-party state. After three days in Spain, he arrived in Britain seeking political asylum, unable to go to more obvious countries like France or Belgium because he is convinced his government's agents would kidnap or kill him.

But in Britain he has been so angered by his treatment that he joined others in the hunger strike.

A woman who visited Campsfield House earlier this week said the medical facilities and health care there were 'substandard' and several people appeared to be ill but were not receiving treatment. 'Paracetamol seems to be the standard treatment.'

She said the strikers had been told that unless they eat they will not get out and if they will have a better chance of being freed if they eat.