New Internationalist

Campsfield’s troubled history

campsfield protest [Related Image]
The Close Campsfield Campaign has been supporting detainees for 20 years. Lydia James under a Creative Commons Licence

Over the past 20 years Oxford’s Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre has seen breakouts, hunger strikes, riots and suicides – and a sustained campaign to close it down.



25 November: Campsfield House opens, under private management by GSL (now G4S).


10 January: Campaign to Close Campsfield is launched and meets for the first demonstration outside the detention centre two weeks later.

9 July: A Camp for Human Rights is evicted from outside the main gates of Campsfield after five weeks.

15 November: A former detainee marries a Campsfield kitchen staff member. The employee is sacked before the wedding.


30 May: Two detainees are deported despite having been on hunger strike for over 30 days and being too weak to walk. One is hospitalized in India for several weeks.


1 July: Refugee Council publish a report that shows 33 children aged under 16 were detained in Campsfield during 1997.


6 March: A classical concert is organized for detainees inside Campsfield by Oxford students.

14 November: Twenty detainees protest on the roof at being detained for over a year.


Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, concludes Campsfield is not ‘a place of safety’.


27 June: 18-year-old Ramazan Kamluca from Kurdistan commits suicide. He is the youngest asylum seeker to take his own life while detained in Britain.


1st June: GEO takes over management of Campsfield.

14th June: 120 detainees go on hunger strike.


16 March: A riot breaks out amid allegations of overcrowding.

8 August: 26 detainees escape Campsfield after a fire; Nine escape re-capture.


2 August: 147 detainees go on hunger strike to protest long-term detention and alleged abuse by prison guards.


30 May: MITIE wins contract worth £27-million to run Campsfield for the next five years.

2 August: Ianos Dragutan, 31, from Moldova commits suicide.


20 February: A child is released after two months detention, three years after the government promised to end child detention.

19 October: A fire allegedly started by an Afghan detainee destroys an accommodation block.

29-30 November: Close Campsfield Campaign marks 20 years of resistance to immigration detention with its 239th demo.

Researched and written by Lydia James

This timeline is published in conjunction with ‘Why are we locking up migrants?’ from New Internationalist’s Detention issue.

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About the author

Lydia James a New Internationalist contributor

Lydia James is currently a freelance writer and doer. She was an editorial assistant at New Internationalist between 2013-14. Her particular interests include resistance, climate justice, disability, women's rights and refugee issues. She also enjoys taking photographs. Her past work experience is an eclectic mix of farming, reporting, learning disability support, and communications. She is partial to chocolate courgette cake.

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