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Hillingdon/ Colnbrook IRC

Hillingdon/ Colnbrook IRC

Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre is located next to Heathrow Airport and opened in September 2004. It is one of the most secure centres within the detention system (prison category B). It holds up to 381 men as well as a short-term assessment facility for both men and women. Colnbrook IRC is now managed by MITIE following a recent change in contractors.

MID’s programme at Colnbrook began in 2009. Colnbrook has purchased music equipment, employs a music teacher, and has radio workshops that link well to our music programme. This has included songwriting workshops, music and dance sessions, and workshops for World Peace Day, Black History Month, Diwali, Chinese New Year and Nowruz.  

We undertook 34 regular workshops and six in the community in 2010-11 with Music for Change. Our first work in the Hillingdon community was delivered with 12-14 year old students at Harlington Community School, very near to Colnbrook IRC, which led to a performance by the young people at the Celebrating Sanctuary festival on London’s South Bank.

At the end of 2010, Colnbrook informed us that for financial reasons they would have to withdraw from working with MID in 2011. We hope to resume work there as soon as possible.

“Some of the detainees seemed to have forgotten about their situations for the brief period they were involved in the project…. One Kurdish and Afghan guy asked us to go back there and said: ‘Today is one of my amazing days.’”                                                                                             Asian Music Circuit Artist


Hillingdon is the second largest of London’s 32 boroughs, with an estimated population of 250,000 (in 2007). Considered relatively affluent there are, however, pockets of extreme deprivation, with some areas in the 40% most deprived areas in England, and the borough is home to a diverse range of people and communities. In 2008 an average of 31% of pupils spoke English as an additional language. The 11th most deprived borough in outer London and the 58th most deprived of 149 local authorities in England, there are more than 1,600 families living in temporary accommodation.