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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 July, 2004, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Protests against asylum detention
Dungavel: Man found dead after Harmondsworth move
Campaigners against the detention of asylum seekers have begun a series of protests around the country.

The demonstrations came after two apparent suicides in removal centres, one of which led to disturbances.

Organisations backing the protests say they want to see an end to detention of people who have not been convicted of any crimes.

Around 20 to 30 people turned up at three separate protests on Saturday, some making contact with detainees.

The demonstrations are taking place outside five institutions which have been used to hold asylum seekers.

On 19 July a Ukrainian asylum seeker was found hanged at Harmondsworth Removal centre, near Heathrow Airport. The man had been waiting a date for deportation.

The death sparked significant disturbances in the centre which detainees protesting against conditions.

Police were eventually brought in to bring the situation under control - but the centre remains shut with detainees transferred to other locations, including prisons. Seventeen people were arrested.

Scottish death

But at the end of that week, a Vietnamese detainee was found hanged in Dungavel Removal Centre, Lanarkshire. A Home Office investigation has been launched

The man had been transferred from Harmondsworth to the Scottish centre in the wake of the disturbances there.

Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre
They know they would die if they return to their own countries - they are that desperate, they will fight to their last not to be deported
Former immigration detainee

Campaigners say they believe the man had been held for more than a year, neither knowing if he would be deported or released, and had "given up hope".

On Saturday protests took place outside HM Prison Liverpool, Campsfield Removal Centre, near Oxford and Dover Removal Centre.

Protest organiser at the Campsfield demonstration, Bob Hughes said the event was an "important moral booster for the people inside."

He and around 30 other activists were able to make contact with detaineesm through small holes in the walls of the centre.

Mr Hughes told BBC News Online one of the protesters, an Iranian man from Birmingham, was able to talk at length with an Iranian detainee.

"It turned out they actually knew each other. He was able to tell us that a lot of people have been held for many months, some over a year," he said.

More protests

Protesters are also expected to gather at HM Prison Forest Bank in Manchester and Dungavel Removal Centre in Lanarkshire on Sunday.

Emma Ginn, of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, said the government's detention of asylum seekers had to end.

She said: "We are here because the conditions of detention are so bad that two men were driven to kill themselves.

'Frustration and tension'

"One of the main causes of frustration and tension amongst the men, women, and children detained is that they do not understand why they are detained as they have not been accused of any crime.

"Immigration detention is indefinite and there is no requirement for it to be sanctioned by a court or be independently reviewed.

"One Harmondsworth detainee was released a few weeks ago after over a year - some others in the past have been in detention for years before being removed or released."

Ms Ginn said campaigners had found asylum seekers terrified of being returned to their countries.

"Official reports on detention centre conditions seem to have little impact - a report on Harmondsworth by Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, mentioned that the centre's suicide awareness team was unaware that there had been 11 incidents in the month before the inspection."

Asylum centre dead remain unnamed
30 Jul 04  |  Politics
Blunkett approval for Dungavel
03 Jul 04  |  Scotland

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