'Treated like prisoners': Detainees moved from immigration centre after outbreak of violence

6 November 2022, 22:45

Migrants being held at Harmondsworth said they were being treated 'like dogs'
Migrants being held at Harmondsworth said they were being treated 'like dogs'. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Detainees have said they were being ‘treated like prisoners’ when violence broke out at a Heathrow immigration centre.

Dozens of people were finally removed from the immigration centre at Harmondsworth on Sunday, after a disturbance broke out following a power cut.

Harmondsworth holds hundreds of men, including adult male asylum seekers, foreign offenders awaiting deportation and men who are in the UK illegally.

A group of desperate detainees left their rooms, armed themselves and went out into the courtyard in anger over the living conditions they faced.

Read more: Riot police descend on London immigration removal centre as 'armed' detainees stage violent protest

Read more: Murder probe launched after man stabbed to death and another wounded at Kent village pub

Some detainees who had not yet been moved on Sunday, told the Guardian they were being kept in “conditions which are not humane.”

“We haven’t been out of our cells for three days,”one said.

Police officers at Harmondsworth on Saturday
Police officers at Harmondsworth on Saturday. Picture: Alamy

“They come to our cells to bring food to us and leave it on the floor as if we’re dogs.

“They are treating us like prisoners but we are not prisoners we are detainees.”

Later on Sunday afternoon the Home Office said that detainees had been removed from the site and taken elsewhere.

A government report into the site carried out last year highlighted concerns including living conditions that are "below an acceptable standard".

The chief inspector of prisons reported filthy cell toilets, problems with pests and dilapidated communal showers.

They were left with no light, no heat, no running water, no hot food and no toilet facilities - sparking a protest
They were left with no light, no heat, no running water, no hot food and no toilet facilities - sparking a protest. Picture: Alamy

The decision to move the detainees was because of electrical problems that caused Saturday’s power cut.

They understood to have been left with no light, no heat, no running water, no hot food and no toilet facilities - sparking a protest.

No one was injured during the "disturbance" incident at Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow Airport on Friday night, according to immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

But he said they will be "held to account" for their actions.

It is understood that a group of detainees left their rooms and went out into the courtyard area armed with various weaponry.

None of the detainees left the premises during the incident, and they were later returned to their rooms.

Mr Jenrick said: "Thankfully no staff working or individuals detained there were hurt, despite clear evidence of unacceptable levels of violence and disorder.

"The public should be reassured that offenders and others waiting removal from the UK are being held securely.

"The perpetrators of this disturbance will be held to account and, where appropriate, removed from the country as swiftly as is practicable."

Metropolitan Police officers attended the incident at 7.45pm on Friday and were still on the scene on Saturday, the force said.

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