Seven still on hunger strike after asylum centre protests

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The Independent Online

Seven asylum-seekers are continuing to refuse food, 10 days after hundreds of inmates at detention centres in London and Gosport went on hunger strike in protest at their incarceration.

One inmate, John Turkson from Ghana, has refused water for a week. "I want to die so people hear about those in detention," said Mr Turkson, 36, a civil engineer and father of three who fled Africa after being kidnapped and tortured. "Someone has to make that sacrifice so people know what is going on. I have finalised everything, finished signing everything with my solicitor today, so I can donate my organs to charity."

At Colnbrook Removal Centre near Heathrow, 97 detainees have signed a petition highlighting the length of their detentions, and calling for judicial review. Alessio Lunghi from the No Borders Network said: "Some have been there for three years. These people aren't criminals, they are ordinary people who have been detained for an incredibly long time. We have heard of one man who was put in isolation on Thursday and tried to commit suicide."

The protest began 10 days ago when 100 men at Colnbrook refused all food. Their numbers swelled to 155 by the following day, and last Friday 124 asylum-seekers at Haslar Immigration Removal Centre in Gosport joined the protest. Mr Lunghi said: "It is almost as if it is being co-ordinated by the detainees. There have been hunger strikes before but they were on behalf on one specific nationality."

Two dozen detainees at Haslar then decided to stage a "passive demonstration" in the exercise yard. Shortly before midnight on Monday, specialist prison officers were called in to break up the sit-in.

Michael Woolley, co-ordinator of the Haslar Visitors Group, said: "There was a sit-in of about 25 to 28 men who refused to go back to their dormitories until the riot officers were brought in and took them to the Colnbrook detention centre." A Home Office spokesman said the protest ended without violence or damage to the centre and the remaining 119 detainees at Haslar ended their hunger strike yesterday.

Five people remain on hunger strike at Colnbrook while a further two are refusing food at Harmondsworth near Heathrow. The Home Office said they were being closely monitored.