Harmondsworth: Detainees who caused disturbance at London immigration centre ‘will be held to account’

A group of armed detainees behind the “violence and disorder” at a west London immigration centre during a power outage will be held to account, a minister has said.

No one was injured during the “disturbance” overnight at Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow Airport, according to immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

Electricity issues began on Friday around 3pm and still remained on Saturday afternoon.

It is understood that a group of detainees left their rooms and went out into the courtyard area armed with various weaponry.

None of the detainees left the premises during the incident, and they have since been returned to their rooms.

The Home Office said people are being moved to other centres while engineers fix the power and repair the damage.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick took to Twitter on Saturday night to condemn “unacceptable levels of violence and disorder” reportedly seen during the unrest, and said those responsible “will be held to account”.

He wrote: “The public should be reassured that offenders and others waiting removal from the UK are being held securely.

“The perpetrators of this disturbance will be held to account and, where appropriate, removed from the country as swiftly as is practicable.

“The Home Secretary and I have been kept abreast of events throughout the night and today by our hard-working teams. I have visited the site tonight and I expect the centre to be empty by the end of the day.”

The Metropolitan Police service and HM Prison Service was called to the detention centre at 7.45pm on Friday, and remained at the scene on Saturday.

Police officers have been providing support to staff dealing with the incident, the Met confirmed.

It is understood that a group of detainees left their rooms and went out into the courtyard area armed with various weaponry.

None of the detainees left the premises during the incident, and they were later returned to their rooms.

Sky News reported that the disturbance peaked around 2am but was still ongoing on Saturday afternoon, with the National Tactical Response Unit in attendance.

London Fire Brigade also responded.

Earlier on Saturday, the Home Office said in a statement: “There has been a power outage at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, and work is currently under way 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.”

About 100 people were due to be moved out of the Harmondsworth centre to make way for new arrivals from the overcrowded centre at Manston, the Guardian reports, but the “protest” stalled this.

Dangerous overcrowding issues at Manston, a temporary immigration processing facility in Kent, emerged this week after 4,000 asylum seekers were put in a facility designed for 1,600.

In a bid to reduce the crowd, hundreds of asylum seekers have been rapidly moved out of the Manston camp in the past two days.

The number has fallen to 2,600, with 1,200 people taken off site in the last four days, No 10 said on Friday.

Some 40 migrants were transported to London to stay with friends or family on Tuesday, but around 11 of them had nowhere to go on arrival - forcing them to flag down staff at Victoria train station for help.

The incident comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak admitted the migrant crisis is a “serious and escalating problem” and admitted that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed.

He was challenged on the issue by Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Starmer said responsibility for a “broken” asylum system lay with the Tories, and that just four per cent of the asylum claims made by people who crossed the English Channel in small boats last year have been processed.

He said: “They’re only taking half the number of asylum decisions that they used to. That’s why the system is broken.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is under fire for her response to rising numbers of people crossing the Channel in small boats, after she labelled it an “invasion” in southern England.

Four parliamentary committee chairs have jointly written to Ms Braverman asking how the Home Office will reduce the backlog in asylum cases.

The letter is signed by the chairs of the Home Affairs Committee, Justice Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights and Women and Equalities Committee, and requests a response by November 16.