LOCKED IN FLOODED CELLS! – Harmondsworth inquiry demand

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On Monday, 23 June, the High Court will respond to a Liberty demand for an independent investigation into the treatment of detainees at Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre.

The court will determine whether an inquiry must be held after vulnerable detainees were locked in flooded cells without food or water while fires burned during a disturbance in the centre, near Heathrow.

The legal challenge is on behalf of three individual detainees who claim that during the November 2006 Harmondsworth disturbance they were denied food and water for up to 40 hours.

The detainees also allege they were locked in overcrowded, pitch-black rooms flooded with water for more than 24 hours; forced to urinate and defecate in front of each other; and were strip searched in front of several officers.

Permission to judicially review the actions of the Home Office and Kalyx Ltd (the private contractor running the centre) was granted by the High Court in March.

Liberty’s Legal Officer Alex Gask said: ‘This appalling mistreatment of immigration detainees will only be stopped if exposed through a root and branch independent inquiry.

‘It is shameful that these men were abandoned to pain, fear and hunger while in UK detention.’

One detainee told how he was taken to the centre’s medical clinic suffering from a bad back.

The man said: ‘They just abandoned me. There was no doctor and, when I asked where the doctor was, the detention officers laughed at me . . .

‘One of them stepped on the hem of my trousers to make me fall over. He then started laughing and called me a “fucking negro”.’

In January 2008, the Border and Immigration Agency’s race relations audit found that repeated patterns of alleged racist incidents at Harmondsworth detention centre were missed by the in-house investigation process and that regular taunting of detainees by some officers went unchallenged.

The disturbance in November 2006 allegedly began shortly after the publication of a damning report on conditions in the centre by the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMIP).

Four detainees were acquitted of conspiracy to commit violent disorder in February 2008.

Liberty will argue on Monday that the inquiry should cover the appalling conditions of detention under the Home Office and Kalyx Ltd which led to the disturbance taking place.

Evidence from the claimants and other witnesses about the conditions in Harmondsworth substantiate the HMIP report, including instances of an individual with diabetes being denied insulin treatment, bullying, beatings and arbitrary solitary confinement.