On Friday 5 February a hunger strike broke out at the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire. As many as 50 women took action to protest against the period of time they have been locked up and the treatment of themselves and their children. The women were from a wide range of countries where human rights abuses and violence are common, including China, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Eritrea.
Many women are in detention having been convicted of “crimes” of destitution or for travelling on false papers, which is unavoidable when you are fleeing persecution. Many women have been separated from their children.
Some women were left outside in the snow, some in a corridor without access to water or toilet facilities, as the authorities attempted to separate the strikers from other detainees.
Detention of all refugees, whatever their immigration status, must end!
End child detention!
Each year over 1000 children are locked up in immigration detention centres in England, often in preparation for deportation.
Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner, describes the centres as “no place for a child”, and the effects on the children as “distressing and harmful”.
The children are often woken in dawn raids.
Children have complained that arresting officers have acted in a “terrifying” way, “bashing and kicking” at doors, were “rude” and watched as they used the toilet or dressed.
Children are often prevented from contacting their friends and are unable to find out what has happened to their pets.
Dr Rosalyn Proops, an officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, calls for an end to child detention, saying, “These children are among the most vulnerable in our communities and detention causes unnecessary harm to their physical and mental health.”
Dr Miriam Beeks, a volunteer doctor with Medical Justice, writes about Yarl’s Wood, “There was one child who had been detained before, he was extremely traumatised. He had been having counselling with the Children’s Society. He was born in the UK and didn’t know anywhere else. He just sat in the corner with his head in his hands. He was extremely worried about his mother.”
Dr Beeks was horrified to learn of a child aged 12 and a younger sister, both with advanced HIV, who were deported to a country where they were very unlikely to be able to get the drugs they needed to keep them alive. Dr Beeks stated, “It was as good as a death sentence.”
• Protest info: http://london.noborders.org.uk