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Detention centre death triggers protests

PROTESTS have been staged inside and outside Europe’s largest immigration detention centre after a man was found dead, amid fears over a mass deportation flight planned for Tuesday night.

Nigerian man Oscar Okwurime died at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in west London on Thursday evening.

Fellow detainees staged a protest in a courtyard on Friday morning, holding up a sheet saying “RIP Oscar.”

On Saturday, protesters from Movement for Justice staged a demonstration outside, demanding “Justice for Oscar” and “No More Charter Flights — Stop Deportations.”

The site, next to Heathrow airport, is run by private security contractor Mitie and holds 676 men awaiting decisions on their immigration status.

Mr Okwurime was reportedly due to be deported on tomorrow night on a mass expulsion flight to Nigeria, and was said to be “terrified.”

A similar deportation flight to Nigeria was grounded by activists in 2017, in a case that became known as the Stansted 15.

DEATHS AND DEMOLITION

There have been a series of deaths at Harmondsworth, which is one of Britain’s oldest detention centres.

Last December an unnamed Algerian man was found dead at the centre, and in 2017 a Polish man, Marcin Gwozdzinski, took his own life.

An inquest jury later found 10 failings had contributed to Mr Gwozdzinski’s death.

The latest death at Harmondsworth comes amid growing calls to shut down the detention centre.

Under plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, the centre will be demolished and an alternative site nearby is currently being sought by the Home Office.

A public consultation by Heathrow Airport Ltd closed on Friday, with a green belt location off Faggs Road believed to be the most likely location.

Hounslow Council is accepting submissions until September 24, and campaign group End Heathrow Immigration Detention is encouraging opponents to voice their objections.

The group said it was “saddened” to hear of Mr Okwurime’s death and said the detention centre should “be closed to put an end to the suffering and injustice.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any death in detention is a tragic event and our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Mr Okwurime.”

Mitie said it was unable to comment while an investigation was ongoing.

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