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Hillingdon / Harmondsworth IRC

Hillingdon / Harmondsworth IRC

Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre is situated next to Heathrow Airport and Colnbrook IRC in Hillingdon. It is a purpose-built, long-term centre where up to 661 single male detainees are accommodated, and is the largest detention centre in Europe. Some of the wings are high security (prison category B) and it is managed by MITIE.

MID first worked at Harmondsworth in 2005 and regular workshops began in late 2009. In 2010-11 there were 34 workshops with detainees and six in the community, working with Asian Music Circuit, including sitar and tabla workshops, steel pan and percussion workshops, workshops for Africa Day and Christmas, and songwriting workshops. A community exchange project was delivered with a class of 12-13 year old students at Ruislip High School, a predominantly white working-class area of Hillingdon.

“The pupils began to have awareness of what is happening outside of their comfortable boxes and to start to tackle the myths around immigration, with pupils having more awareness of the topic and working together…”

Member of staff, Ruislip High School


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