‘I was a victim of the Ugandan authorities and this inquiry shows I became a victim of the UK authorities,’ said Enid Ruhango yesterday.
She was commenting on a new report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers on the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire.
Owers’ report follows an inquiry into how Enid’s room-mate at Yarl’s Wood, Sophie Odogo, was reduced to a state of mental collapse and had to be rushed to hospital.
Sophie Odogo is a rape and torture survivor who fled from Uganda.
She was detained for seven months whilst her asylum application was determined through the ‘Fast Track’ process at Yarl’s Wood, the UK’s main immigration removal centre for women and families.
Sophie’s case – and the death of Manuel Bravo at Yarl’s Wood while Sophie and Enid were detained there – led the Medical Justice Network, the local MP Alistair Burt and others to demand an inquiry into the treatment of detainees.
Dr Frank Arnold, an independent doctor from the Medical Justice Network, said: ‘The Home Office were forced to ask the Prisons Inspectorate to conduct an inquiry about health care in Yarl’s Wood, centring on the so-called care experienced by two detainees, who were refugees from torture in Uganda.
‘In my experience I’ve seen at least 40 refugees in detention centres in the last year.
‘I can only say that the horrible picture that this report paints is a gross understatement of the institutional medical abuse which is all too common in detention centres.’
Dr Arnold said that injuries to detainees ‘have been reported over and over again to the police as assault, but we are not aware of any prosecution which has ever been brought as a result.’
Sophie and Enid were part of a 38-day mass hunger strike by detainees.
Yesterday they took part in a press conference outside the Home Office.
Gill Butler, Sophie’s Yarl’s Wood Befriender and Litigation Friend, alleged Sophie ‘didn’t know who she was or where she was and the medical centre at Yarl’s Wood was still maintaining there were no medical concerns – even the day before she was rushed into hospital as an emergency on oxygen.’
Enid Ruhango described conditions at Yarl’s Wood as ‘disgusting’.
She told News Line: ‘The situation in which you live there is not human at all.
‘It’s very distressing and it can lead someone to take their life because they think it’s preferable to rest in peace.
‘We went on hunger strike to protest at the abuse we were suffering.
‘We decided that we’d rather die in this country than be sent back home.’
Enid added: ‘I feel Yarl’s Wood must be closed or I fear more people there will take their lives.
‘Criminals are treated better.’
Sophie Odogo was too distressed to speak to the press, but issued a statement, saying: ‘Sometimes I blank out, I can’t hear what anyone is saying.
‘Other times I feel I can’t escape. They told me Manuel killed himself – perhaps death was his ultimate freedom.’
Sarah Cutler, from BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees), said: ‘There are about 30,000 people a year passing through Immigration Removal Centres.
‘People’s basic rights are not being respected.
‘People are being disbelieved when their medical issues are raised. People are being denied medical treatment.
‘This is a massive issue. It is a racist policy and it’s unjust.’
Emma Ginn, north-west coordinator for the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) said: ‘This is the third inquiry from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons about Yarl’s Wood.
‘We’re very disappointed that after so many inquiries we still see horrific treatment of detainees in Yarl’s Wood.
‘All the detention centres should be closed.’