History of Campsfield Immigrant Detention Centre
Throughout Campsfield’s history, detainees locked up inside have
individually and collectively protested about their conditions of imprisonment
and for their release. There have been rooftop protests, hunger strikes, letters
to ministers and to the press to complain about their wrongful imprisonment.
Group 4, the managers of the centre, and the Immigration Service have regularly
responded by victimising complainants and transferring them to prisons. Both
Amnesty and UNHCR have condemned this practice. The Campaign to Close Campsfield
continues to fight to have the voices of the detainees heard and to end immigration
- 10.06.93 Kidlington ‘parish’ meeting opposes establishment
of Campsfield Detention Centre and Campsfield Forum founded.
- 20.09.93 Advert for staff for Campsfield Detention Centre
appears in Oxford Times.
- 23.10.93 Public meeting against Campsfield in Wadham College,
- 25.11.93 Demonstration in Oxford Town Centre: ‘Stop the
- 29.11.93 First immigrant detainees brought from Harmondsworth
Detention Centre. 12 demonstrators meet bus at Campsfield main gates and demand
freedom for detainees.
- 17.12.93 Public meeting against Campsfield in Oxford Town
- 23.12.93 169 visitors from Jamaica (an entire plane-load,
including an immigration officer) are detained on arrival. 40 are detained
in Campsfield over Christmas.
- 10.01.94 Campaign to Close Campsfield launched with support
from Oxford Trades Union Council, other union branches and church bodies.
- 29.01.94 First monthly demonstration which continues thereafter
on last Saturday of every month.
- 10.02.94 11 hunger strikers (mostly Algerian) in Campsfield
moved to secure hospital in Yorkshire which is then picketed. Algerian Community
Association join and organise demonstrations. All 11 granted temporary admission
and released from detention.
- 11.03.94 175 detainees go on hunger strike. Sparks off wave
of hunger strikes across Britain that includes about 400 detainees in total.
- 12.03.94 First rooftop protest in Campsfield with demonstration
outside by Campaign.
- 13.03.94 Nine detainees from roof-protest moved to prisons.
Hunger strikers threatened with deportation. 40 incidents are recorded which
break the World Medical Assembly Declaration of Malta (1991) on treatment
of hunger strikers. Last hunger striker stops after 41 days.
- 26.03.94 Demonstrators climb fence and reach roof and stay
for 12 hours. Ali Tamarat, former detainee and hunger striker speaks at demonstration
and on TV. Two days later he is re-detained.
- 22.04.94 Detainee marries former cleaner at Campsfield who
was sacked before the wedding.
- 24.05.94 Detainee seen being deported handcuffed and mouth
taped up. Already ill before her transfer, the doctor at Holloway prison refused
her and she had to be taken to Whittington hospital.
- 25.05.94 Detainees extract promise from Immigration Service
staff in Campsfield that there would be no more unannounced deportations.
- 04.06.94 600 people demonstrate outside Campsfield.
- 05.06.94 Mass revolt in Campsfield by detainees following
deportation of Ali Tamarat without warning. 11 detainees escape. Many protest
on rooftop. Riot police are sent in. 22 detainees moved to prison after protest.
At least five detainees injured.
- 09.07.94 Camp for human rights evicted from outside main
gates of Campsfield (erected 04.06.94).
- 26.09.94 Judge Sir Stephen Tumim, chief inspector of prisons,
- 27.09.94 Hunger strike begins and is joined by all the Ghanians
in Campsfield until 03.10.94.
- 25.11.94 Detainee is bound and gagged and deported to Ghana
breaking the official ban on gags after the death of Joy Gardner in July 1993.
- 15.11.94 Detainee marries former kitchen staff member in
Campsfield. Staff member sacked before wedding.
- 04.12.94 Petition of over 5,000 signatures handed to 10
Downing Street by marchers who had walked from Oxford to London via Harmondsworth
- 07.02.95 Muslim and Christian detainees win request for
halal food and change of meal times to allow Muslim detainees to observe Ramadan
by going on hunger strike.
- 05.03.95 Ivorian Relief Action Group hold demonstrations
outside Campsfield with Campaign and new group, Students Against Campsfield.
Two detainees, Anne-Marrie Sonan and Sita Kamara are released after hunger
- 19.02.95 Detainee tortured and racially insulted by Airline
Security Consultants trying to deport him.
- 20.04.95 Judge Sir Stephen Tumim, chief inspector of prisons,
publishes report on Campsfield stating average stay was 10 weeks and 10% of
detainees were there more than six months. Report concludes that ‘while detention
orderlies were aware of the need to treat detainees with humanity and fairness,
there was little evidence that this basic understanding of their role was
- 26.05.95 Judge Sir Stephen Tumim told that his contract
will not be renewed by the Home Office.
- 30.05.95 Two detainees are deported despite having been
on hunger strike for over 30 days and were too weak to walk. One was hospitalised
in India for several weeks on arrival.
- 05.02.96 Students Against Campsfield appear on TV national
news with banner in Heathrow stating ‘Britain starves refugees’ on day that
benefits are removed for in-country asylum applicants
- 25.05.96 Six detainees attempt to escape Campsfield but
are caught and transferred to a prison.
- 13.07.96 The Campaign and several Kurdish refugees perform
a street play in Oxford to highlight detention in Campsfield (performed several
times over next few months).
- 24.07.96 1996 Immigration and Asylum Act came into force
depriving asylum seekers of benefits and removing many legal rights.
- 15.09.96 Trees outside Campsfield are cut down to prevent
detainees waving at detainees in yard.
- 31.01.97 Students gagged statues outside Sheldonian Theatre
in Oxford to highlight situation of hunger strikers in Rochester prison.
- 21.05.97 Detainee moved to Winson Green prison because he
had complained of Group 4 staff watching pornographic videos in room adjoining
prayer room during Ramadan.
- 22.05.97 12 detainees protest on roof for 36 hours against
transferals to prisons.
- 30.05.97 11 unaccompanied children detained in Campsfield
until visitors and lawyers complained.
- 20.08.97 Detainees protest in Campsfield as they see a detainee
being strangled as he is removed. Group 4 evacuate and riot police are brought
in. 10 West Africans and two Caribbeans and one Lebanese are blamed for ‘riot’
and detained on remand. Charges against four were dropped leaving nine. Of
nine, three are minors. Two attempt suicide while in detention. Another two
are granted refugee status and are given bail.
- 10.10.97 Sir David Ramsbotham, chief inspector of prisons,
visits Camspfield for five days.
- 07.01.98 Refugee Council publish report that shows 33 children
under 16 years old detained in Campsfield during 1997.
- 16.04.98 Sir David Ramsbotham, chief inspector of prisons,
publishes report on Campsfield which states that ‘it is abundantly clear’
that ‘there is little or no consistency, or logic, in current arrangements
for deciding upon detention’ (§I-25).
- 17.06.98 All of the Campsfield Nine are acquitted when prosecution
admits that their witnesses, Group 4 and Immigration staff, are ‘unreliable’
and have admitted that security guards destroyed telephones and hit detainees.
Four defendants are then detained in Rochester prison.
- 22.06.98 70 detainees start mass hunger strike in Campsfield
for one week demanding visit by immigration minister. Spokesperson for detainees
victimized and moved to prison.
- 17.08.98 All Campsfield Nine are released from detention
following concerted lobbying and another suicide attempt. Eight of the nine
decide to sue the Home Office and Group 4 for malicious prosecution.
- 21.09.98 UN working group on arbitrary detention visit UK.
Report makes 15 recommendations for change.
- 06.03.99 Classical concert played by Oxford students organised
for detainees inside Campsfield.
- 15.05.99 Second classical concert played by Oxford students
- 21.09.99 Two detainees injure themselves, one very seriously,
trying to escape.
- 14.11.99 Twenty detainees protest on roof for having been
detained for over one year.
- 27.11.99 300 people attend anniversary ‘Six years too long’
demonstration at Campsfield.
- 15.09.00 Conference Against Immigration Detention ‘Barbed
Wire Europe’ held in Ruskin College, Oxford.