By Mike Rowley
Very early on 4 May a group of activists from Oxford went down to Southampton Airport. Not, alas, to catch the 6.30 flight to Paris but to prevent an asylum seeker from being forced onto it against his will.
That asylum seeker is a young man who fled to Britain from Congo-Brazzaville when close relatives were murdered by state forces. Once here, he was locked up in Campsfield House, a former young offenders’ institution north of Oxford.
As a YOI, Campsfield was relatively nice, with sports facilities and views over the fields. Now it houses people who have committed no crime, except that of being from a poor country; the football pitches have been abandoned to weeds and panels have been bolted to the fences to stop the inmates setting eyes on Britain.
During a previous deportation attempt, the man was badly beaten by employees of “Global Solutions Limited” (GSL, formerly Group Four) the PFI company that runs Campsfield, breaking his wrist among other injuries. Bravely, he wrote to the Home Office to complain. A Home Office bureaucrat wrote back telling him that he had not been assaulted but subjected to “authorised control and restraint measures” and refused to pass on the complaint to the police, referring it instead to the Home Office’s internal “Customer Relations Department”!
The man was lucky enough to get hold of a lawyer and the matter is now in the hands of the police. This is why the authorities tried to urgently deport him —in Congo-Brazzaville he cannot give evidence!
There we were, therefore, at the airport, trying to persuade passengers and aircrew not to fly with Anicet on board, until we were hauled off by the police. Fortunately the pilot did indeed refuse to take him and he remains in Campsfield. On the way back to the prison the frustrated GSL guards beat him up again; a visitor some days afterwards reported that his face was badly swollen.
The fight for justice for all those unjustly imprisoned by this government pandering to the vilest kind of racism, will go on.