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Issue #1903      February 17, 2020

Fight against new detention centre at Heathrow

Rights activists have launched a campaign to thwart government plans to build Europe’s largest immigration centre near Heathrow.

The British government unveiled its Heathrow expansion plans, which includes building a mega-detention centre of more than 1,000 beds to replace Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, last year.

Campaigners say this would make it the biggest detention centre in Europe.

The two existing detention centres in Hounslow, west London, are being bulldozed to make way for the airport’s much-criticised third runway.

Four possible relocation sites have been identified by the Home Office and Heathrow Airport Ltd, all of them on green-belt land.

Members of campaign group End Heathrow Immigration Detention (EHID) are hoping the plans could present an opportunity to wipe out detention centres close to the airport altogether.

“There are so many reasons for opposing these centres and the plan to replace them,” the group said in a statement on its website.

“No human should be subjected to the inhumanity and misery of immigration detention.”

There are ten immigration detention centres in Britain, holding some 2,000 to 3,000 detainees between them at one time.

Harmondsworth and Colnbrook have been found to be the most deadly; nearly half of the thirty-four people who have died in detention since 1989 have lost their lives there.

Detainees are locked in their cells almost half the time in prison-like conditions before being deported.

EHID campaign spokesman Bill MacKeith said: “It is wrong to lock up innocent people. Parliament’s home affairs committee condemns the government’s detention policy as having ‘a shockingly cavalier attitude to the deprivation of human liberty and the protection of people’s basic rights’.”

The group is also concerned about the effect of the expansion on climate change as well as worsening air pollution in the area.

“Around Heathrow is already the second major hotspot for nitrogen dioxide pollution in London, with many breaches of legal limits for years (according to the Aviation Environmental Federation),” Mr MacKeith said.

In a bid to rally support against the new deportation centre, EHID members are holding a meeting at St Mary’s Church Hall in Hatton Road, Bedfont, at 7pm on Friday 28th February.

Speakers will include a former detainee and anti-detention campaigners, while MPs and councillors have been invited to attend.

Morning Star

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