Proposed plans to expand Campsfield immigration detention centre attacked

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Current and former senior members of Oxford University staff have signed an open letter to David Cameron objecting to the proposed expansion of the Campsfield immigration detention centre in Oxfordshire.

In the letter, they state: “We are concerned with what we consider is a dangerous undermining of democratic principles and the rule of law… we do not find it acceptable that they (detainees) should be detained without trial, without time limit, without proper judicial oversight and with little chance of bail, and thus treated worse than criminals… immigration officials are, in effect acting as a law unto themselves.”

The 70 signatories include nine current and former heads of college, including the Very Reverend Christopher Lewis, former Dean of Christ Church, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Principal of Mansfield College and Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College.

The letter goes on to state that the government’s current policy is in breach of the United Nations Convention on Refugees and the Human Rights Act, citing the case of Alois Dvorzac, an 84-year-old detainee who died handcuffed in hospital shortly after being moved the Harmondsworth detention centre, despite suffering from dementia and diabetes.

The sending of this letter will be accompanied by a flash mob organized by Oxford University Amnesty International, held at 12pm Saturday 12th November, during which giant versions of the text of the letter and the names of the signatories will be displayed.

The Home Office plans to expand Campsfield’s capacity to over 450, up from the 216 detainees it currently holds, and UK immigration detention capacity has increased by 25 per cent nationwide throughout the last year. Conditions at the camp have been condemned in the past by the Chief Inspectors of Prisons and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

Jo Hynes, Oxford University Amnesty International President, stated: “We’ve had an incredible response from both academic staff and students whilst coordinating this letter, with Oxford University Student Union also unanimously passing a motion to call for the closure of Campsfield House. The UK detains more migrants, for longer and with less judicial oversight than any other country in Europe, yet the facts are clear: immigration detention doesn’t act as a supposed deterrent to immigration and contravenes basic human rights.”