I got escorted by two G4S guard into a van from the detainment room. As they closed the door, I couldn’t help but laugh. This van is serious. It’s got a cage on the door and on the back and there’s plexiglass everywhere else. I asked them if they could take a picture since I think it would be hilarious (and I knew no one would believe this actually happened), but they told me no pictures are allowed; in fear that might be a journalist. So we drove around the airport and pulled into some official looking compound where I got transferred into another vehicle. Same idea. Cage and plexiglass. In this van, I’m told that there are 2 other individuals to pick up before we reach the center. I figure it’ll be two people with the same hilarious misunderstanding as me. After about an hour and a half of driving in the English countryside we stopped at a police station. At this point, I replaced my initial assumption that they’ll be like me with the guess that we’re picking up some sort of a crazy terrorist. Turns out it’s a Turk who was held there for 4 days and is pretty nice, he’s got a pretty crazy story too. So we are back on our merry way to pick up the third felon. Same story with this guy. He’s being held in a police station. This cat is an Ethiopian follow who doesn’t really speak English, so I never got his story. Finally, after about 3 hours of driving where I tried my best to dig all of the scenery since it was going to be my only chance before leaving, we got to the Oakington center. As we drove in, our chauffeur tells us it’s not as bad as it looks. It doesn’t look that bad though. It’s an old army barrack that was purchased and converted by Immigration UK into a holding center. After a lengthy processing, where all my belongings are divided into a “stuff I can keep” and “stuff they keep”, I’m shown to my room. My room is shared with 7 other detainees. Finally, at 2:30am, I go to bed.
7:30am (Thursday morning) rolls around much too fast. A loud voice on the intercom tells us it is breakfast time. I roll out of bed and see my roommates for the first time; Six Africans, one Vietnamese and me, the lone Canadian. Breakfast was fairly painless. I got accustomed to the routine fairly quickly as it’s pretty much the same as Cadet camp only with lots more Asians and Africans. Lots more. One of the guards informed me at processing that there are 320 detainees. One has been at the center for 15 months. Many of them have been here for several months. As I started talking to my fellow prisoners, I discovered that this is where people go when the Man discovers they are illegal immigrants or when their asylum status is revoked due to conflict resolution in their country. After breakfast, we (all the new detainees) got a tour of the facilities. Turns out this place is fairly well equipped. There’s a gym, a small library and a games room, among other things. After 2 more meals, a nap, some ping pong with my Iranian friend, a few walks around the small outdoors area and way too much BBC one, I head off to bed; my van is leaving in the morning to drop me off at the airport and my trip back to Canada will begin.