TERRIFIED staff locked themselves in panic rooms as more than 100 armed detainees rioted at an immigration removal centre.
A power cut led to a blackout – and opened the migrants’ electronically locked cell doors.
6Riot police were called to deal with the disorder at Harmondsworth Immigration CentreCredit: UkNewsinPictures6A power cut at the facility opened all locked cell doors and sparked the riotCredit: UkNewsinPicturesRiot police were called in as violence erupted, with migrants grabbing makeshift weapons and starting fires.
Last night, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the Harmondsworth removal centre in Hillingdon, West London, was being emptied in response.
The Home Office would not the numbers involved, but the centre is Europe’s largest and can hold up to 670.
Friday’s rampage there came just days after two security staff at Kent’s Manston centre were attacked.
It also emerged workers at the former RAF base near Ramsgate have found improvised weapons including Freddy Krueger-style claws dumped by detainees.
A source at Harmondsworth said: “The whole system in the centre went down, including lights and heating. After a while it was chaos as the migrants got angry.
“They made weapons out of smashed up tables and chairs as well as using the metal slats from under their beds.
“Outnumbered staff were frightened for their lives and had no choice but to lock themselves in the safe rooms which have manually secured armoured doors, and another door they could lock.
“The decision for them to gather in there could have saved lives, It certainly prevented injuries.”
They went on: “Tensions boiled over because migrants did not know what was going on and it was pitch-black.
“The situation was totally out of control and the migrants all ran out onto the courtyard, where more fires were started.
“By 5pm there was a really strong smell of smoke in the air and all the staff were panicking. The situation only started to come under control when riot police went in.”
But a detainee held at the centre was reported to have said inmates felt “abandoned” by staff after the blackout.
He said: “My voice is gone from shouting, ‘Officer, officer, help us.
“People were banging on the doors, they’re terrified, I’m afraid for my life.
“There was nobody here all night. They abandoned us.
“Last time I heard from an officer was half past one in the morning, we haven’t seen anyone since.”
‘THE DETAINEES HAD BEEN RUNNING RIOT’
Riot police including Territorial Support Group teams and prison officers from the National Tactical Response Group raced to Harmondsworth at 7.45pm, along with fire crews.
Yesterday, five white coaches with tinted windows were outside to transfer migrants to other facilities.
Officials insisted none was being switched to hotels or bailed.
Mr Jenrick said: “Thankfully no staff or individuals detained were hurt despite clear evidence of unacceptable levels of violence and disorder.
“Offenders and others awaiting removal are being held securely.
“The perpetrators of this disturbance will be held to account and, where appropriate, be removed from the country as swiftly as is practicable.
“I have visited the site tonight and I expect the centre to be empty by the end of the day.
“I am grateful to Home Office staff, contractors and officers and the Metropolitan Police for the professionalism and support.”
The migrants were checked on by Rita Biddulph, of the Home Office’s independent monitoring board.
She said: “The detainees had been running riot — banging things, hitting things, breaking things.”
She explained: “The facility is divided into seven units and each unit has 28 detainees with just two members of staff per unit.
“Inside each unit there is a safe room, which is manually lockable.
“And because there were more detainees than staff, they had to lock themselves in panic rooms for their safety.
“All the staff are safe and there were no injuries.”
All detainees at Harmondsworth, are male, and include Albanians, Afghans, Somalis and east Europeans.
A report in March said many of those held there had “complex needs”.
And it raised a “serious concern” about how long it took to process detainees.
The riot is said to have “peaked” at 2am yesterday but disorder was still ongoing throughout yesterday morning.
Damage was still being assessed last night.
The Home Office said in a statement: “The welfare and safety of staff and individuals detained at Harmondsworth is our key priority.”
STAFF ATTACKED AT MANSTON
Meanwhile, the workers attacked earlier at Manston are understood to be agency staff who suffered minor injuries amid migrant anger over over-crowding and length of stays.
It has tripled in size since May.
Around 1,200 of those housed at Manston have been moved out this week — but there are still 2,600 at the site designed to hold 1,000.
Around 60 per cent are Albanian, and eight out of ten of them are young men.
Albanian gangs are known to recruit in French migrant camps for their UK drug trade.
Police arrested three male asylum seekers after the assaults on October 27 and 28. Each was later released without charge.
Staff, many fearing they are “under-equipped” as they are only given a stab-proof vest and uniform, shared images on a WhatsApp group to warn colleagues of the dangers.
6Security at Manston spotted pieces of metal had been removed from the fenceCredit: SUPPLIED6The missing metal was found inside the complex by concerned staffCredit: SUPPLIED6Worried staff at Manston shared this image of a piece of wood which could be used as a weaponCredit: SUPPLIEDThese included claws fashioned from ripped-out sections of the centre’s perimeter fence.
A rusty iron bar had been given a makeshift handle.
An insider said migrants were angry at being kept at the base for up to three weeks before being moved out.
There is also tension over cramped and cold conditions, plus a “repetitive” daily diet of hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers.
The source said: “They all know they are heading to hotels so want to be moved on quickly.
“The staff were attacked as they tried to stop problems between groups of migrants.
“Luckily they were OK, but it is worrying.
“Although staff are trained in police techniques including take-downs and cuffing, they are not even given handcuffs. We are under-equipped.”
Many Manston staff are provided by private security firm Interforce, who say they are “actively recruiting for Kent and surrounding areas”.
6Home Secretary Suella Braverman is under pressure to resolve the crisisCredit: Alamy
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk