Socialist Worker

Tragedy that should never happen again

Issue No. 1911

A TRAGEDY at the refugee detention centre in Harmondsworth, near Heathrow airport, sparked protests by inmates this week.

A refugee was found hanged in the centre. It’s no surprise that some cannot bear life inside home secretary David Blunkett’s prison.

Hundreds of men, women and children are forcibly transported there, ready for “fast track” removal from Britain. Some of them have not even had a ruling on their case for asylum.

The disturbance echoes what happened in Blunkett’s flagship Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire in 2002. Fires broke out after a woman refugee was forcibly restrained by security guards.

New Labour refuses to shut down these centres. Instead Blunkett handed Harmondsworth over to a private firm, UK Detention Services, to run for profit.

Last year Blunkett’s own Home Office inspection ruled that the centre “is failing to provide a safe and stable environment for the detainees”.

The report noted, “There had been several cases of reported injuries sustained by detainees during failed removals.

“Inspectors were told that allegations of assault were not always fully investigated”.

There is on average one incident of self harm among refugees every week at the centre. Blunkett insists these vulnerable people stay locked up. That will mean more people taking their own lives rather than be driven back to the country they fled from.

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Sat 24 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1911
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