Riot police called to Harmondsworth detention centre after reports of major disturbance

A power cut caused chaos at Harmondsworth detention centre in West Drayton, Middlesex.

There were reports of more than 100 detainees in the courtyard at 2am on Saturday morning, reportedly armed with makeshift weapons and knives.

Harmondsworth Detention Centre in West Drayton, Middlesex

Staff were moved from the area over threats of violence after a power cut earlier in the night.

Riot police and a helicopter were called to the scene to restore order as attempts were made to get power supplies running again.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “There has been a power outage at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, and work is currently underway to resolve this issue.

“We are aware of a disturbance at the centre and the appropriate authorities have been notified and are on scene.

“The welfare and safety of staff and individuals detained at Harmondsworth is our key priority.”

There have been no arrests or injuries and it’s believed that the situation is under control. The cause of the power cuts is unknown.

The detention facility holds hundreds of men, including adult male asylum seekers, and foreign offenders awaiting deportation.

A government report on the Harmondsworth immigration removal centre found that living conditions were “below an acceptable standard”, following a visit in 2021.

The chief inspector of prisons highlighted concerns over filthy cell toilets, problems with vermin and poorly kept communal showers.

There were also reports of high levels of vulnerability among detainees, with people assessed to be at risk of harm held for too long and detainees kept locked in their cells for many hours.

There have been a number of incidents at the detention centre near Heathrow. In 2015, detainees claimed they would launch a hunger strike demanding an end to “indefinite deprivation of liberty and human rights” in a letter sent to Channel 4.

One protester said of the treatment by Harmondsworth staff: “It’s like we are animals. They are not giving us help. If anyone came inside and see conditions here they would see and release us.”

A letter signed by protesting detainees was seen by Channel 4 News: “We are writing to draw your attention to the miserable plight condition of the detainees of asylum cases”.

The letter outlines grievances such as the long detention time while cases are processed and the conditions they are detained in.

“Everyone here is burning in the fire of uncertainty, that is the worst form of mental and physical torture, without any offence or crime and without any punishment decided by the court.”

“The detainees…have started peaceful protest against the immigration practice from Sunday noon. Furthermore all have decided to go on hunger strike till they are set free to contest their cases properly without any confinement.”

In 2006, specialist riot police attended a detainee protest at Harmondsworth. Extensive damage and “deliberate sabotage” was caused to the centre during the disturbances.