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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Inquiry into asylum riot claims
By Hannah Bayman
BBC News Online, Southampton

Officials are investigating claims a riot was sparked at an asylum centre after four warders allegedly beat up an inmate.

Haslar immigration removal centre, Hampshire
Rioting lasted until the early hours and closed the large dormitory

Police are also looking into the disturbance at Haslar Immigration Removal Centre in Gosport, Hampshire, in which a member of staff was taken to hospital with a head injury.

Up to 2,000 of damage was caused when windows, lights and a television were smashed in seven hours of unrest at the former prison.

The alleged victim of the attack and nine other men, all believed to be from West Africa, were transferred to a centre in Dover that morning.

A 24-year-old Haslar detainee from India, who asked not to be named, told BBC News Online: "A person in my dormitory had been on hunger strike for 15 days when four guards pushed him on the floor and beat him, they hit him a lot of times.

"After that other people from his country made trouble and asked them why they were doing that. They broke windows and tube lights."

Other guys from his country were protesting and saying 'why are you doing this with this gentleman?'
Aamir Mahmood, Haslar detainee
Aamir Mahmood, a 26-year-old detainee from Pakistan, said: "I heard him shouting and crying and trying to get some help.

"Other guys from his country were protesting and saying 'why are you doing this with this gentleman?'"

Michael Woolley, of Haslar Visitors Group, told BBC News Online: "According to the men, the disturbance was provoked by an assault by prison officers on one of their number, a vulnerable man on suicide watch.

"A confrontation had previously developed between this man and an officer and regrettably a much respected detainee, leader of the Christian Fellowship, had not been allowed to mediate."


A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We take all allegations of this nature very seriously.

"The police are investigating a number of allegations surrounding the incident, in which a group of detainees barricaded themselves in the large dormitory.

"The centre is carrying out an internal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage."

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: "We are investigating damage estimated at between 1-2,000 and an assault on a prison officer and have so far taken five statements."

Twice this year inmates at Haslar, which holds up to 160 male asylum seekers, have held hunger strikes in protest over conditions.

In January 42-year-old Ukranian inmate Mikhail Bodnarchuk hanged himself in his cell, while in August four Sri Lankan detainees escaped.

In April Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, strongly criticised the centre for random public strip-searches of detainees.



Riot at immigration detention centre
24 Sep 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Hunt for escaped asylum seekers
18 Aug 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Asylum food strike in third day
14 May 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
Asylum seekers 'suffer sex abuse'
08 Apr 03  |  Oxfordshire
Asylum centre 'worst of all'
05 Mar 03  |  England
Asylum seeker found hanged
03 Feb 03  |  England

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