Thursday, December 20, 2007

What is going on in Campsfield?

Here is the latest urgent news update from the Close Campsfield Campaign. I thought I had ceased to be able to be astonished by the incompetence and sheer malice of the government's abominable detention system and the private prison companies that play such an important part in running it. Unfortunately it seems I was mistaken. I reprint the update without superfluous comment.


The explosion of anger this morning [17th December] at Campsfield was due to a firm belief among many inmates that Davis Osagie, the man allegedly beaten by guards, had in fact been murdered by them.

Detainees were awakened by his screams and shouts of "Murder!". When they tried to open their room-doors to investigate, they found they had been locked in. Some men are said to have kicked their door(s) down in order to get to Osagie's assistance. Conceivably, they knew only that someone was in dire distress.

After the immediate panic had subsided, guards unlocked the rooms, assuring inmates that it was all over and there was nothing to worry about. Then detainees noticed "a lot of blood in the corridor", where Osagie had been taken, assumed the worst, and the trouble started in earnest.

The detainee who told me this, at 1:30 pm, said there were still bloodstained tissues blowing around in the wind on the path below his window. He assumed the blood was Osagie's. Heating and electric power for the block had been turned off so the whole place was freezing, and the detainees had eaten nothing since 5:30 yesterday: collective punishment.

I could hear police dogs barking in the background. The centre was surrounded by riot teams (three large busloads of whom had arrived after 9am) and police, including mounted police. A massive (and no doubt massively expensive) show of force, against men who by this stage posed no threat to anyone, if indeed they ever had posed a threat.

At 2:20 pm, my contact phoned to say that the police riot squad were moving into Blue Wing; a few minutes later he called again to say that they were beating people up - he could hear screams. Then he rang off and when I tried to call him back his phone was switched off, as was that of my other contact. No calls were being put through to the centre "because we have an ongoing incident".

I asked to speak to Davis Osagie and was told "he's on his way to the airport". If (as reported earlier) his destination is Benin, whose government refuses to accept him, he may turn up again in another detention centre after a long and awful return-flight with his guards - at massive public expense.

The show of force at Campsfield this morning was amazing. Money seems to be no object when it comes to terrorizing migrants. It is certainly effective. My contact said that his first thought when he was awakened by Osagie's screams was "what they are doing to him, they can do to anyone!"

Dr Helen Groom, who attempted unsuccessfully to see detainees this morning for Medical Justice, points out that forcing prisoners to be helpless witnesses to abuse in this way, is in itself a severe form of torture. So far, there is no confirmation from the Home Office of the astonishing news, supplied by a co-detainee earlier, that Mr Osagie had been working as an immigration officer before being betrayed by a colleague, and detained.

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