Eliud Nguli Nyenze, a 40 year old Kenyan man, died at Oakington Immigration Removal Centre on 15 April.
This press release is issued by Cambridge Migrant Solidarity, a group of Cambridgeshire residents concerned about the welfare of people detained in relation to their immigration status, and opposing the policy of detention of immigrants.
Deep concerns have been raised by the death of a man in Oakington last week as detainees talk of mistreatment and medical neglect. This is contrary to official reports which are not treating the death as suspicious. Detainees inside the centre have been in contact with Cambridge Migrant Solidarity (CMS) following a solidarity demo by Cambridge residents on Sunday 18th April.
Reports from inside the centre suggest that the Kenyan man who died on Thursday the 15th April was denied medical attention and that he died after an ambulance called by fellow detainees had been turned away from the centre by detention centre staff.
CMS has been told by detainees that disruption inside the centre took place as shocked friends of the man who died tried to prevent his body being removed from the detention centre, fearing a cover-up and demanding that the circumstances surrounding his death, particularly the denial of medical treatment, required independent public investigation. The extent of the protest is unclear, however reports from inside suggest that detainees did not attempt to escape and that guards were not hurt during this incident (this is contrary to Home Office statements). It is said that riot police were called into the centre and that 60 detainees were, in many cases arbitrarily, arrested and/or removed; many were not involved in the protest. Those closest to the dead man were all removed from the centre and cannot now be contacted. CMS have been told that some of those arrested have been taken to prison in Birmingham.
The sister of one of the men reportedly transferred to prison in Birmingham has told CMS that she has not been able to speak with her brother for several days, but has today been told by her brother’s lawyer (who has been in touch with Immigration officials) that her brother is in prison because ‘there is nowhere else for them to go’ and that this is ‘just to calm the situation’ and that ‘they shouldn’t really be there’, the lawyer is demanding the immediate release of this man.
There are reports that during these arrests, some detainees may have been injured by the police, and that some of those arrested and removed had clearly not been involved in the disruption, at least one of those arrested is also known to be extremely vulnerable.
Since then many of those left inside the centre are saying that they have been issued with removal directions (that is they have been told that tickets have been bought for their deportation, and they have been given removal dates, but not told airlines or flight times) despite on-going legal cases. All the guards have been changed and replaced with larger male guards. One of the blocks (Block 20 - arrivals block) has been shut down and is now empty (contradicting claims that ‘there is nowhere else’ for detainees to go).
Detainees have expressed fears in speaking out on this as they risk punishment or jeopardising their cases.
CMS are following on from this by making serious complaints into:
1. The man’s death on Thursday 15th April.
2. The wrongful arrests and injuries to those involved in protest and those not involved in protest.
3. Men issued tickets to leave without time to complete full legal representation and concern for deportation without adequate legal representation of those now detained in prison.
1. On Thursday 15 April 2010 a detainee at Oakington succumbed to an unknown medical condition, leading to widespread protest at the centre by other detainees. As a result the police were called in to end the protests and many detainees have since been taken to prisons, without charges or a trial. The death is not being officially treated as suspicious.
2. On Sunday 19th April 25 Cambridge residents protested outside of the centre. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Video-Protesters-call-for-immigration-centre-to-close.htm
Print quality photographs of the protest outside the Oakington centre are available for publication on request (contact 07879 972 629).
3. Oakington is managed by a private security company G4S on behalf of the UK Border Agency.
4. The latest report, in 2008, by the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons about the Oakington centre was extremely critical of the running of the centre, including that "Neither staff nor managers appeared to take an interest in the individual circumstances and concerns of detainees. For example, they appeared unaware of the fact that they had been holding a Chinese man for nearly two years." The full report is available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/inspectorates/hmi-prisons/oakington-rem.htm
5. Cambridge Migrant Solidarity (CMS) is group of Cambridgeshire residents concerned about the welfare of people detained in relation to their immigration status, and opposing the policy of detention of immigrants.
6. Previous Cambridge Migrant Solidarity actions include a protest outside the Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, on Mothers Day, 14 March 2010, in solidarity with women and men on hunger strike, detained inside the centre.
7. The sister of the detained man quoted above is happy to speak to the press, other detainees are also be willing to give statements.