Rabbis at Harmondsworth

 By Patrick Maguire

Rabbis from cross-communal group Tzelem joined Jewish human rights charity René Cassin, to mark Pesach by visiting asylum seekers at Europe’s largest immigration detention centre.

The visit to Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre – which holds 615 male detainees in conditions comparable to a Category B prison – was described by Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, as “particularly poignant at Pesach, when we Jews celebrate freedom from oppression in Egypt.”

He said: “We hope our visit will highlight the plight of these often isolated people who have endured conditions in their own homelands akin to slavery – and to give them some assurance that they are not entirely alone.”

Reading’s orthodox Rabbi, Zvi Solomons, described the treatment of detainees as “utterly unfair and arbitrary, and hide-bound by bureaucracy”.

He said: “We met Mark. He has been in the detention centre for 7 months – since September – and fighting his case for over a decade.

“I was almost in tears as I heard about the frustration and depression of this serious and studious young man. He feels that his life is being wasted in the centre.

Zvi also described how the detainees stepson is “also suffering from the absence of the only stable father he has known.”

René Cassin campaigns director Sam Grant cited Magna Carta, which was sealed at Runnymede in 1215 less than five miles away. 

The group made the visit on Wednesday March 8, with rabbis from across the denominational divide. The visit was part of a larger campaign to bring an end to the practice of indefinite detention?