Yarl’s Wood. Exposing the humanitarian crisis.

February 23, 2010

At a hunger strike solidarity demonstration outside SERCO HQ in London on Friday February 19th. a Black Women’s Rape Action Volunteer gives an account of the beatings at Yarl’s Wood. SERCO is the private company that runs the detention centre. 19.02.10                      Picture by Frances Laing

On Saturday and Sunday I spoke to four women on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre in Bedfordshire.

The interviews have at last been published in “The Friend” the international Quaker weekly journal online today. See this link:

 WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

Demonstrate: Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Women Behind the Wire, Communities of Resistance , Feminist Fightback , No Borders the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns and the Campaign Against Immigration Controls are just some of the movements upholding solidarity protests at SERCO HQ in London and at Yarlswood in solidarity with the strikers. On March 1st. there will be another protest at SERCO HQ. (the private company that runs Yarl’s Wood) 18-22 Hand Court , Holborn, London (WC1V 6JF). 

Write to Minister of State Phil Woolas MP woolasp@parliament.uk or Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk  to condemn the detention of victims of rape and other torture, of mothers separated from their children and anyone who does not face imminent removal.  

Write to women inside.  Contact Black Womens’ Rape Action if you can write to women who want to receive letters.

Help find legal representation for women to lodge or appeal an asylum claim.  Most women don’t have lawyers or their lawyers do nothing. Some demand extortionate fees. Most women’s cases are not “straightforward” so many lawyers won’t take them. 

Legal aid cuts have reduced the paid time that lawyers can spend on each case. -The All African Women’s Group (AAWG) and Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) need help with money to pay for phone calls to keep in touch with lawyers and supporters.

For two weeks they have  been taking and returning calls to over 20 women a day (calling out from Yarl’s Wood is very expensive) trying to stop deportations, posting updates, and faxing legal and other information in to women. AAWG is unfunded and BWRAP operates on a shoestring budget.   Email: AAWG aawg02@gmail.com  BWRAP bwrap@dircon.co.uk 

All women have compelling cases to be released because they are: mothers separated from their children; survivors of rape and other torture, detained contrary to Home Office rules; not facing imminent removal. 

 Endorse OUTCRY http://www.qarn.org.uk/homepage/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/outcry.jpg  The coalition working to end child immigration detention. Send an email at together@outcrycampaign.org.uk with details of the organisation you represent -Join the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network:  http://www.qarn.org.uk/homepage/

For anyone who is tempted to say I’m being one-sided in my coverage – read the lengthy Home Office email interview I did last week. See:

https://franceslaing.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/home-office-responses-to-the-womens-hunger-strike-at-yarls-wood-february-2010/

In that interview the Home Office Press Office made the following statements:

“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”.

“Independent monitors were at the scene to witness the women’s protest. The demonstration remained passive at all times and there was no use of force”.

My response: I have yet to see evidence of a sustained presence of “independent social workers” “specialist medical professionals” or “independent monitors”.

Placard at solidarity demonstration. SERCO HQ. 19/02/10 Picture by Frances Laing

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