Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Migrants who crossed Channel to UK 'on hunger strike' to avoid being deported

More than a dozen migrants detained after entering the UK by sea have gone on hunger strike to protest their impending deportation, according to campaigners.

Charities and activists who work with detainees made the claims after interviewing a number of people who crossed the Channel to the UK illegally and are being held in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, near Gatwick Airport.

Up to 13 were said to have refused meals this week, with around five still hunger striking now.

The Home Office admitted a ‘small number’ of detainees were refusing food but refused to say how many.

It comes a week after an asylum seeker in the same facility at known risk of suicide was injured while officers unaware of a court ruling preventing his removal forcefully tried to take him to the airport.

Two deportation flights to France, Spain and Germany are understood to be scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday.

Detained Voices, which publishes statements gathered from detainees about their experiences, said it knows of five who are into their seventh day of hunger strike at Brook House.

One of them said they were in a ‘very depressed situation’ and were refusing food ‘to reach our voice’.

The group warned of ‘mounting concern from campaigners about the safety and legitimacy of carrying out deportations at a time when coronavirus rates across Europe are rising’.

Detention Action, a charity supporting detainees, said it had heard of 10 to 13 current detainees who have gone on hunger strike at some point.

A spokesperson for the charity said: ‘People are getting so desperate in there.

‘One of the men in there told me “No one can take this every day, we need help and for someone to listen to us”. Many of them are in a bad way.’

The Home Office said those refusing meals are being ‘monitored closely’ and have food and trained medical staff available to them.

A spokesperson said any self-harm incidents are treated with ‘utmost seriousness’ and every step is taken to prevent them, although they added that hunger striking would not stop officials from removing people in the country illegally.

The spokesperson continued: ‘Those in immigration removal centres are often dangerous foreign criminals or people who have no right to be here and we make no apology for seeking to remove them.’

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