IMMIGRATION detainees set to be deported to Europe have gone on hunger strike, the Home Office has said.

A “small number of individuals” are refusing meals at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre near Gatwick Airport, a spokesman said.

It is understood as many as 13 detainees are on hunger strike against deportation, among other concerns.

Detainee support group Detention Action said it understood two deportation flights bound for France, Germany and Spain are set to go ahead this week.

Under the EU’s Dublin regulation, the UK can deport asylum seekers to the first EU country in which they arrived.

Website Detained Voices published two statements by people claiming to be refugees from war-torn Yemen now participating in the Brook House hunger strike.

The Argus: Detention Action said deportation flights bound for France, Germany and Spain are set for this weekDetention Action said deportation flights bound for France, Germany and Spain are set for this week

One detainee, who claimed they had fled Yemen because they were tortured by rebel Houthi forces, said they would prefer to die in the UK than allow themselves to be deported to Spain.

The other detainee said they had come to the UK on a boat from Calais and will now be sent to Germany, where they previously had asylum applications rejected.

“Since August 14 I take water only and now I don’t drink or take any food,” they said.

Detention Action director Bella Sankey said the Home Office should not be deporting detainees to countries with rising coronavirus infection rates.

“From a health and safety perspective first and foremost, we should not be removing people that have been possibly exposed to Covid,” she said.

“Removing people to countries where there are increasing quarantine measures is not sensible.

The Argus: Detention Action director Bella SankeyDetention Action director Bella Sankey

“A lot of these detainees see deportation as a death sentence.

“These are people who have fled their countries and moved through EU countries to the UK because they feel safe in the UK.

“They have made a dangerous and perilous journey.

“Often the detainees are feeling desperate or hopeless because they can be detained for an indefinite amount of time.”

Ms Sankey also expressed concern about reports of self-harm in Brook House.

A Home Office spokesman said those on hunger strike are being monitored closely and trained medical staff are on hand.

“Those in immigration removal centres are often dangerous foreign criminals or people who have no right to be here and we make no apology for seeking to remove them,” he said, a statement Ms Sankey strongly contested.

“We take the welfare of all immigration detainees very seriously.

“Any self-harm incident is treated with the utmost seriousness and every step is taken to try and prevent them.”