Home Office responses to the women’s hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood, February, 2010

February 19, 2010


In the course of my research for an article I’m putting together – I asked the Home Office Press Office a series of questions about Yarl’s Wood by email today. I archived the responses.

I requested a statement on the recent Children’s Commissioner’s report on Yarl’s Wood. The response was as follows:

“On the report and from one of our ministers: Meg Hillier, Home Office Minister said: “Treating children with care and compassion is an absolute priority for the UK Border Agency, and we take the detention of families very seriously. We believe that children should not be separated from their parents”

“We only detain families as a last resort. We always release families where advised it is in their best interests by independent social workers and specialist medical professionals.

“We only detain families when the independent courts conclude they have no right to remain in the UK. We encourage families to return voluntarily, avoiding the need for detention. If they refuse to return, we have no choice but to enforce their removal.

“The changes we have made at Yarl’s Wood have been praised by many, including Sir Al who praised the improvements made over the past few years when giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in September last year.”

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=yarl%27s+wood&iid=5670618″ src=”6/5/7/7/A_protestor_hands_9c49.jpg?adImageId=10461687&imageId=5670618″ width=”500″ height=”334″ /]

As the picture above shows (taken in 2003) protests against the conditions at Yarl’s Wood have been taking place for many years (F.L).

Next – I asked the Home Office for a statement with regard to the current February 2010 women’s hunger strike. The Home Office Press Office said:

“David Wood, Strategic Director for Criminality and Detention, said…”all detainees are treated with dignity and respect, with access to legal advice and heath care facilities…currently a small group of around 20 women are currently considered as food refusers. This means they have missed 3 consecutive meals in the canteen. However, there are alternate food arrangements within the centre, such as shops and vending machines. Everyone is being assessed by medical staff and at the moment there are no causes for concern.”

“The well-being of detainees is of paramount concern to the UK Border Agency, which is why healthcare staff and independent monitors from the Independent Monitoring Board were at the scene to witness the women’s protest. The demonstration remained passive at all times and there was no use of force. The detainees were integrated back into the centre at the earliest opportunity.”

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=yarl%27s+wood&iid=6483660″ src=”8/d/6/2/A_Protestor_Hands_3bc7.jpg?adImageId=10462100&imageId=6483660″ width=”500″ height=”326″ /]

Next I asked the Home Office Press Office (by email): “Four women (I believe) were sent to Holloway prison. Can you confirm on what basis these women (if the report is true) – were sent to Holloway/another prison and whether they are still being held there? For my own understanding – and for the understanding of the general public – is this what is called ‘administrative detention’?

The Home Office Press Office responded with a question:

“On whether women were arrested? 4 detainees were taken to Greyfriars police station and held on IS91 (authority to detain) warrants over night…They were not arrested but held in police station instead of Yarl’s Wood for security reasons”.

Finally, I asked the Home Office Press Officer: Where are the women currently situated? (at 12.05 p.m. today?)
As yet no response to this question has been received.

2 Responses to “Home Office responses to the women’s hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood, February, 2010”

  1. […] Email interview I conducted with a Home Office spokesperson earlier this year, in which Meg Hillier describes her views on the legal assistance available to asylum seekers and their families. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Human Rights Watch report fast-track asylum failing women.EU development funds to be used for fingerprinting refugeesTHE WRONGS OF THE IMMIGRATION SYSTEM ASYLUM CHAOS:The Appaling Truth…. Posted in Refugee and Migrant Justice, Women and immigration detention centres | Tagged Refugee and Migrant Justice, Yarl's Wood, Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre | Leave a Comment » […]

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