A ‘disturbance’ involving around 100 people armed with knives and various other weapons has been reported at a migrant detention centre near Heathrow Airport after a power outage left the site with no electricity or water.
It has been reported that riot police descended on the scene at Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre in West Drayton, Middlesex, after 100 people broke into the courtyard of the centre in the early hours of this morning.
Reports suggest they were armed with knives and pieces of wood. No injuries have been reported to staff or detainees.
Harmondsworth has been without power or water since yesterday, it is reported, in the latest sign of poor conditions at the UK’s asylum and immigration centres.
The Met Police were initially called to the scene at 7.45pm. Officers from the National Tactical Response Group (NTRG) and Met’s Territorial Support Police, as well as fire and rescue workers were also called to the scene.
A March report into Harmondsworth highlighted worries as many of those being held were classed as ‘vulnerable’ and some had been detained at the centre for more than a year.
It comes amid growing scrutiny over conditions at British immigration centres after it was reported the Manston centre in Dover was massively overcrowded and people were being forced to sleep on the floor.
Police and specialist officers were seen outside the detention centre preparing to enter with riot gear including shields
The Metropolitan Police were called to the scene at 7.45pm last night and sent along Territorial Support officers
Images from the scene show multiple police officers outside the centre along with police vans and what appears to be riot gear
One of the jobs of NTRG officers is to help manage outbreaks of violence or rioting at the UK’s prisons
Highly trained specialist officers arrived at the scene on Saturday morning as the incident remains ongoing
The incident is said to have peaked at around 2am on Saturday but is still ongoing. No injuries have been reported.
Images from the scene show multiple police officers outside the centre along with police vans and what appears to be riot gear.
‘Police officers have been providing support to staff dealing with a disturbance at the Harmondsworth immigration removal centre.
‘Met officers attended the location at approximately 19:45hrs on Friday, 4 November.
‘Officers remain at the location.’
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.’
The Metropolitan Police service and HM Prison Service remain at the scene.
MailOnline understands that a group of detainees left their rooms and went out into the courtyard area armed with what was described as ‘various weaponry’.
It is understood that the power remained off as of 9am this morning and none of the detainees left the site.
The people involved are said to have now been returned to their rooms.
Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in West Drayton, Middlesex, houses all males and can hold around 670 detainees.
Among those at the site are thought to be vulnerable men seeking asylum, foreign convicts awaiting deportation and others who have been ruled to be in the UK illegally.
In March, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said of Harmondsworth that many detainees had ‘complex needs’ and that the ‘lengthy detention of people with substantial vulnerabilities who had, in some cases, been declared unfit for detention, was also a serious concern’.
It added that detainees had been held for very lengthy periods due to ‘systemic problems with the provision of suitable release accommodation.’
The report found: ‘Eight people had been in detention for over a year and 26 for more than six months.
‘Yet the majority (58 percent) were simply released after a potentially damaging period of detention.’
It is unclear if anyone has been injured of what damage has been caused, as the incident is said to be still unresolved
The detainees are said to have broken into Harmondsworth’s courtyard (pictured) during the power outage (stock image)
The chief inspector of prisons also reported filthy cell toilets, problems with pests and dilapidated communal showers.
Harmondsworth is operated by the private firm Mitie Care and Custody on behalf of the Home Office.
The NTRG is a specialist unit of His Majesty’s Prison Service, that works alongside National Dog & Technical Support Group that is equipped to respond to serious incidents in prisons, as well as high-risk situations around the country.
The ‘disturbance’ comes at the end of a week which has seen the government come under huge pressure over asylum seekers and migrants, after Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the House of Commons that the UK’s asylum system is ‘broken’.
Earlier this week a child ran to the fence at the edge of the Manston centre and handed a note in a bottle to a photographer.
The note described harrowing conditions with dozens kept at the centre for at least a month – instead of the 24 hours it was designed for.
It claimed there were pregnant women and sick detainees inside, and that a disabled child was not being cared for.
The letter, written in broken English, said: ‘We are in a difficult life now… we fill like we’re in prison (sic).’
Witnesses said they saw security guards at the site ushering detainees back inside when members of the press were walking by the fence.
The young girl was among a group of children who broke past security guards and ran over to the fence to throw the bottle to the photographer.
It said: ‘Some of us very sick… ther’s some women’s that are pregnant they don’t do anything for them (sic)… We really need your help. Please help us.
‘It’s not easy for someone who has children… There’s a lot of children they shouldn’t be here. They should be in a school not prison.’
The letter added: ‘We wanna talk to you but they don’t even let us go outside.’
More than 1,200 people had left the centre by Friday morning as Home Office staff scrambled to frantically book hotels for those detained at the centre in a bid to shift attention away from the poor conditions.
No10 said the number of people at Manston in Kent had fallen to 2,600, with 1,200 people taken off site in the last four days.
Its capacity should be 1,600 who stay for around 24 hours before being found further accommodation. But as many as 4,000 have been kept there in recent weeks.
On October 30th a man drove more than 100 miles to the centre before throwing three improvised petrol bombs at its gates and killing himself at a nearby petrol station.
His motive is unknown, but a series of anti-immigrant and right-wing posts were later found on his social media accounts.
But this has also been beset by chaos after it emerged this week a group of asylum seekers had been bussed to Victoria Station in London and simply abandoned there, with no warm clothing, food or money.
Although the majority of those on the coach had friends or family in London they could stay with, a small group did not and were left in the cold with no idea where they were.
Westminster City Council leader Adam Hug today confirmed the council’s rough sleeping service is looking after a number of asylum seekers from Manston who arrived at in central London with nowhere to go.
‘The chaos that is engulfing the arrival centre at Manston is now impacting on councils across the country. It is not acceptable that people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively dumped at a coach station and left to fend for themselves, we need a more humane and frankly better organised response,’ he said.
‘We are happy do our share to look after asylum seekers – we have plenty of hotels in Westminster, that is not the issue. What is the issue is that the Home Office seems to have descended into panic with no clear picture of where people are going.’
But a senior minister criticised migrants – who were the target of a suspected far-right petrol bomb attack this week – for complaining about conditions.
Home Office minister Chris Philp said told Sky that Manston was legally compliant days after immigration minister Robert Jenrick suggested it was not.
And he later told Times Radio: ‘If people choose to enter a country illegally, and unnecessarily … it’s a bit of a cheek to then start complaining about the conditions.
‘And you don’t even have to come here, they were in France already and previously often passed through Belgium, Germany, and many other countries on the way.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the challenge of migrants entering the UK via the English Channel as ‘serious and unprecedented’ in an interview with the Times on Saturday.
‘There’s no easy overnight fix to that challenge,’ he said.