Current Affairs

Gay activist reveals Harmondsworth homophobia

Marc Shoffman December 1, 2006
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Harmondsworth and all Britain’s asylum detention centres are inhuman hell-holes that should be closed down, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said today.

He spoke after a riot at Harmondsworth asylum detention centre over conditions this week.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, issued a damning report on Tuesday, describing conditions in Harmondsworth as the worst she has ever seen in an immigration and asylum detention centre.

Her report revealed that 60% of inmates felt unsafe and 44% said they had been victimised by staff.

Detainees were watching the report on television when a guard turned it off, prompting protests.

The failed asylum seekers started fires and used bed sheets to spell out “SOS” and “Help” to the watching news media.

Mr Tatchell claims homophobia and sexual assault are big problems inside the centre, he said: “During my human rights work with asylum applicants at Harmondsworth I have received persistent reports of grave human rights abuses by some staff (although, I must stress, there are some outstandingly good staff too).

“If true, these allegations are so serious that criminal charges should follow against the staff concerned and against the Harmondsworth management company, Kalyx Ltd.”

The allegations include claims of physical violence, sexual assault, racism, homophobic harassment and corruption by certain staff, including alleged collusion with drug dealing and extortion within the detention centre.

“Gay inmates, or those merely suspected (sometimes erroneously) of being gay, face an almost daily barrage of insults, threats and, occasionally, actual queer-bashing violence. Certain staff allegedly subject known or suspected gay detainees to digital anal examinations, with no apparent medical or security justification,” he added.

The government has now moved some detainees to over centres in the UK and has vowed to look into the report.

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