Iraqi and Kurdish refugees held in a detention centre in Oxford have started a hunger strike to protest against plans to deport them to Baghdad.
The UK Border Agency confirmed a number of detainees at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre had refused prepared meals on Wednesday.
In a statement, the 24 refugees said they would have to live on the street with nothing if they were deported.
Campaign to Close Campsfield group will hold a demonstration at the main gates.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “Staff are monitoring the situation closely and listening to the detainees’ concerns. All detainees have access to legal representation and 24 hour medical care.”
More than 70 Iraqi people are currently being held in detention centres around the UK, according to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR).
‘Nowhere to go’
Officials from the Iraqi government are visiting them to confirm their identities so that they can be deported, as part of an agreement between the UK and Iraqi governments, the organisation said.
The majority of the detainees have refused to meet the officials in protest at their role in the deportations, the IFIR said.
A statement released by the refugees said: “Some of us don’t have any homes or nowhere to go in Iraq. If we were returned we would be left to survive for ourselves on the streets with nothing.
“Some of us don’t even know if our family members are alive or dead because we haven’t had any contact with them for a long time.”
The statement goes on to say that some of the refugees have wives and children in England.
It said: “Everyone has the right to be able to live in a safe country. It is not right if we are returned to Iraq. Our lives would be ended.”
Campsfield House was converted into an immigration detention centre in 1993, and holds up to 200 men.
Over the past 18 years there have been a number of break-outs and hunger strikes by detainees.