The Jesuit Refugee Service UK is deeply saddened to hear the news of a death of Oscar Okwurime in Harmondsworth Detention Centre on Thursday evening. We understand the exact circumstances of his death remain unconfirmed and the Police are actively investigating.
Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK said, “We are concerned and deeply saddened to hear the news of a further death in detention. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Okuremi’s family and friends at this awful time, and indeed with those who knew him in detention.
“We know from our experience of outreach into detention that detainees often feel forgotten and left behind. The news of a death in detention, regardless of the circumstances, always causes particular levels of distress for those held in detention. At times of loss like this, we remain steadfast in our commitment to accompany and support those held in indefinite immigration detention.”
Harmondsworth, together with Colnbrook, is the biggest detention centre in Europe, with bed space for 1,076 men across both sites. The UK has no time limit on how long people can be held in immigration detention. In Home Office figures released in August 2019, 71% of those leaving detention were held for less than 28 days. However, of those held more than 28 days, 144 were held over six months, and 45 for over a year.
Responding to the statistics released in August, Sarah continued “Immigration detention causes anxiety and confusion, and is deeply corrosive on both mental and physical health; often compounding existing vulnerabilities. It’s high time for a time limit on immigration detention. A year is far too long for people to be held for administrative convenience, to be isolated from their families and torn from their communities.”