Hunger strike to shut Yarl’s Wood

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A HUNGER strike was launched by 43 women at Yarl’s Wood Detention centre in Bedford yesterday against indefinite detention, forced removal and appalling conditions. They also demand the centre is immediately shut down.

Britain is the only country in Europe which allows indefinite detention, worse than a prison sentence, because at least with a prison sentence there is a definite release date. One woman, Adesola, taking part in the strike described the conditions in the centre: ‘We haven’t got any human rights at all.

‘They don’t care about our health. We’ve got a lot of people here with high needs. 

‘The day before yesterday two women were seriously ill. One lady was in agony and the other one was vomiting. But there was no doctor – they couldn’t do anything.  ‘It’s like hell. It’s like you are in prison. We’re treated like we are nothing. They should close this place down.’

Earlier this month, the government was forced to announce the closure of Campsfield detention centre in Kidlington near Oxford because of the horrific conditions asylum seekers and refugees faced there. Adesola said some of the women have been in Britain for more than 20 years and have partners and children in the country.

She said: ‘A lot of people got married in this country. These women have got family here; they’ve got children; they’ve got partners. Some have been here for 27 years, and still they want to send them back. ‘They don’t want to go. But they will drag them. People have no rights at all, no dignity. They are going to drag them by force.’

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who has pledged to close down the centre if Labour gets into power, said: ‘Having visited Yarl’s Wood I witnessed the real suffering of these women and their desperation at being detained without hope of release.  ‘Indefinite detention is cruel and this approach has failed. The government needs to end this disastrous, inhumane immigration detention system and to end the failed “hostile environment” approach. Only then will we see the change we need.’

The closure of 282-bed Campsfield House detention centre was announced at the beginning of the month. In its 2017 annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) found detainees had arrived at Campsfield House without their possessions 150 times. Over 100 women had been detained there while pregnant, some of them heavily.