‘What kind of country allows its government to lock up innocent people in a ‘prison’ that even the fire officials say is unsafe?’ where is the UK’s tradition of human rights now?’ says Liz Peretz,Member of the Campaign to Close Campsfield.
In the latest of a series of fires in UK immigration detention centres, two people from Campsfield House, at Kidlington, near Oxford have been hospitalised. This must call our attention, yet again, to the Home Office ‘duty of Care’ towards the people held in Immigration detention in this country.

The Chief Fire Officers’ Association press release following the incident makes it clear that the Home Office has continued to ignore their recommendation to fit sprinklers in Campsfield, thus endangering the lives of all those inside

IRCs are a high fire risk, not because of the nature of the people locked up, but because the doors are locked, the buildings are behind high fences, access is often inadequate and often poor construction. What kind of society puts people in its care knowingly in such danger?

We read, appalled, of loss of life and injury during fires in nightclubs, or the collapse of factories abroad, thinking this would not happen here – but this latest incident – and the ones before, at Campsfield, at Yarl’s Wood and at Harmondsworth, are all similarly the result of ‘cutting corners’.

Despite the lesson of Yarl’s Wood, where fire spread because there were no sprinklers, and despite the advice of the CFOA in 2007 that they should be fitted at Campsfield, this was not done.

The people – migrants – who have endured these incidents have already, many of them, endured too much – persecution before they arrived in the UK, hardship – certainly – since their arrival, and the bewildering violence of being thrown into arbitrary detention.

It is long past time for the government to review their policy of immigration detention, and at the same time take their duty to care for the people they arbitrarily detain seriously.

As a first step, they should request a thorough inspection of all the detention estate by the Chief Fire Officers Association, and act on their recommendations immediately, before another disaster occurs.