Today marks the 28th day since we began our strike here in Yarl’s Wood

Today marks the 28th day since we began our strike here in Yarl’s Wood, in any other developed country most of us would have been released by now.

We began by doing a peaceful sit in protest outside the Home Office department where we handed Home Office officials our list of demands. They in turn took note of our names on the pretence they would address our demands and reply to each individual. I am sad to say that what they did instead was to target each individual, with many of our original group now deported or released back into the community.

This action only highlights the reasons we were driven to take such drastic and desperate measures, as the Home Office, rather than being concerned with our welfare as they and the Immigration Minister have repeatedly stated, instead capitalised on our weakened state.

It proves that the system we are fighting against is truly unjust, unethical and wrong on every level, we do not feel as though we have achieved much as the Home Office continue to break existing laws and their own guidelines by detaining vulnerable people, and people that cannot be removed and instead are detained indefinitely and forced to fight their cases while incarcerated, putting them at a great disadvantage.

We do have hope that people are starting to wake up to what is really happening in this country that likes to present itself to the rest of the world as a leader in human rights and civil liberties, which we have none within its borders.

Why should the fortune of birth dictate what rights a person should have within our borders? And even though the hunger strike is now over, we are still hungry for our freedom and justice. We will continue to protest and fight for our human rights, and will not participate in our own detention.

We are comforted when MP’s like Diane Abbott and Stuart McDonald not only visit Yarl’s Wood, but address our concerns and campaign on our behalf, and also David Lammy, because it gives me hope that like all the people who support us, they understand that allowing any group of people to be denied basic human rights and due process serves to make easier targets of all in society whether British born or otherwise for the same treatment.

We must all fight together to stop this spiral into division, intolerance and the disintegration of liberty, for liberty is easily lost but very hard earned as history proves over and over.

We are sorry that Alistair Burt MP who’s constituency we are incarcerated in has not kept his promise to us, and has not made any contact after his visit in which he promised to give the Immigration Minister our list of demands and raise our concerns over indefinite detention and the detention of vulnerable people, but sadly I am not surprised.

Moving forward, as well as our original demands, we want victims of rape, torture, trafficking, forced labour, asylum seekers and those who have been detained for six months or more to be released immediately. We do not feel this is unreasonable but a necessity.

Thank you all for your continued support as it gives us great strength in these most difficult circumstances to keep fighting the injustices we face daily.

They even restrained her legs because she started to cry

I am so grateful to Diane Abbott and others who helped to stop the deportation of my friend who was snatched from us without warning on Friday.

Although I am so glad she is back as she is dear to me and I was afraid of what might happen to her in ********, I am still afraid after hearing how she was taken.

She told me how after being summoned to healthcare, she saw the doctor because she was still not eating, and then straight from there they took her to the segregation unit which is directly outside healthcare, where she had no phone until much later when officers retrieved it from her room along with all her belongings, not that it did any good as there is no signal and she couldn’t contact anyone. But most shocking is that she was fully restrained from the segregation unit up until the deportation was cancelled. What I don’t understand is that she is 5f2 very thin and frail, as well as being one of the most passive pacifists I have ever met and she did not resist.

They even restrained her legs because she started to cry.

I am so terrified I can’t imagine how she felt, literally tied like a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter.

I dread my turn and it will come, I am more afraid than ever and there is nothing I can do but be detained and have this threat over my like a guillotine.

There has to be a better way.

For most of us it is a fight for life as we know it, if not for life itself

Today has been a very emotional day for me personally,

I am struggling to see anyone in healthcare here in Yarl’s Wood and even going to get my anti-depressants is a struggle now as I just don’t feel I can have any sort of contact with the healthcare staff as I feel vulnerable when I do and I can’t make myself vulnerable in that environment.

So that being said one of my dear friends and fellow activist was segregated today, this is what they do now before you are deported, and even though she is still here I fear she might be lost to me forever.

One faint ray on sunshine is that Stuart McDonald and hopefully Yvette Cooper are visiting us today and we, though diminished in number, are still very grateful for the opportunity to speak with members of the select committee.

We want to know if anything is being done regarding our plight but I also need to know if the Home Office will be held to account for their oppressive treatment of detainees, and when will it’s practices be regularised by a truly independent body, it cannot be allowed to continue it’s immoral and even illegal practices with impunity any longer.

A serious investigation needs to take place into how the Home Office choose to interpret policy and how it enforces these policies, but ideally we would like a clear change in policy with no room for interpretation because our very lives are affected by this bureaucratic administrative body.

I speak for myself and many others when I say the situation for us is getting worse, we are not coping with the constant pressures on us and how can we fight our cases in this sorry state. For most of us it is a fight for life as we know it, if not for life itself.

It is this reality, this desperation I face and deal with every day, not to mention my own personal hell that is dealing with my own case, from the purgatory that is Yarl’s Wood.

Women in Abyei, South Sudan, Express Solidarity with Hunger Strikers in Yarl’s Wood 15/3/2018

Dinka Ngok women from Abyei Women’s Union, South Sudan, yesterday denounced the UK government and offered their solidarity to women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood IRC after hearing how they were resisting detention and of the UK government’s failed attempts to intimidate and silence them.

Teresa Anyiet, the Chair of Dotbaii Women’s Association, highlighted the links between the struggle of women in South Sudan and the women in Yarl’s Wood. She made clear that the hunger strikers’ fight was their fight, and the fight of all women who are at risk of being displaced and who may need to access their rights to leave their country and enter another one in the future.

She said:

“We women of South Sudan live in a world of violence and we are often vulnerable and displaced. We are like the women of Yarl’s Wood and they are like us. Maybe we even have our own people there, because many people have been displaced from here. If we come out of our world of violence, and we go to the UK, will we remain in the same situation?

“We had hoped that the UK would be part of the solution for Abyei, but if you violate the rights of other women, how can you come and solve other people’s issues? The UK brought [the discourse of] human rights to South Sudan, so why did they cancel the rights of human beings in their own country? UK government: you must release these women, and if they want to remain in the UK and be a part of you, you must accept them as citizens.

“I say to the women: we women all over South Sudan are standing with you. If anything happens to you, we are going to claim your rights. Don’t surrender, and we will not give up here either. Continue even if you are pressured and fear death. Continue your fight. We call on the UK to release you. We pray to God for you and we pray that God will cause the UK’s leaders to repent.”

Afaf Arop, Chair of Abyei Women’s Union, encouraged the hunger strikers to continue their fight, saying:

“We women face abuse all over the world but we don’t accept this, we don’t forget that we have rights and we don’t surrender. I want you women of Yarl’s Wood to know we are standing with you with all our emphasis and feeling. Since you have rights you need to fight peacefully as you are doing. Women’s rights are never given. You have to take them.”

 

We, the Yarl’s Wood Strikers, would like to meet with Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee

We, the Yarl’s Wood Strikers, would like to meet with Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stuart McDonald and as many other members of the Home Affairs Committee as possible regarding the questions they will pose to Serco at the Select Committee hearing on Tuesday, 20 March.

We strongly feel that while Serco are tasked with the running of Yarl’s Wood it is ultimately the Home Office who is responsible for the misery we suffer. We want them to raise our demands to end indefinite detention, inadequate healthcare, the detention of vulnerable people, asylum seekers, and the detention of those the Home Office is not in a position to remove. We want to change the manner we are treated by the Home Office in general when handling our cases to make sure they respect us as human beings.

We have been striking for three weeks, since 21st February. We are striking with clear and achievable demands. We need the Home Office to be held to account for their actions and to be regulated in some way so that it will no longer break the law and abuse our rights with impunity.

We therefore call on the Home Affairs Select Committee meet with us before the questioning of Serco and to question the Home Office and Immigration Minister with regard to our demands, the UK detention regime and the condition we suffer in Yarl’s Wood.

About the signal, we can’t get any calls through because there is no signal

About the signal, we can’t get any calls through because there is no signal, this is over a week now and I kind of feel like it’s on purpose.

We have to go outside in the rain to make phone calls.

I have been told by officers it’s outside as well but I would like to find out the reason as it’s distressing and very inconvenient when people can’t contact lawyers and family.

I feel even more cut off as most of the time I can’t get back to anyone.

They purposely take people on weekends

It’s very surreal here In Yarl’s Wood at weekends.

Outside weekends are most people’s favourite part of the week but here it’s the opposite, once you’ve been here a while you start to see the patterns. They purposely take people on weekends and I can’t help but think it’s because it’s harder for most to get hold of lawyers or anyone to help them.

They took a lady to deport to Brazil yesterday, I didn’t know her but her friends told me she has a court date on the 25th of this month.

It does not surprise me as I know the Home Office does not respect or allow everyone due process, but as word got out that a woman had been taken and was being removed to Kenya the atmosphere became tense and it’s been so quiet. Today I’ve been walking around trying to find out about the Kenyan lady who was snatched away and I could not find anyone to talk to. Everyone was in their rooms quietly, no one in the corridors, very surreal and I found myself remembering one of my favourite zombie movies 28 Days Later when he wakes up and there’s no one around.

Still most people are often in a daze and unresponsive so it’s like The Walking Dead the rest of the time anyway. This is my worst nightmare only I get to wake up to it and not wake out of it.

I just want it to end.

This is not an Immigration Removal Centre, it is a ‘Detain You Indefinitely while TRY to Remove YOU Centre’.

I noticed that the Immigration minister faced a few questions regarding detention and said a few times that people are detained prior to removal. So why is it that by their own statistics the Home Office admit that the majority of detainees are released back into the community?

People ARE detained indefinitely not because the Home Office can remove them but because they intend to remove them.

Why deprive people of their liberty when they have no travel documents and ongoing cases which they would be better equipped to fight if they were free from this negative, psychologically oppressive environment.

Surely as the burden of proof is always on the claimant and not the Home Office, it would be a fairer fight. But we don’t get a fair chance when facing the Home Office.

This is not an Immigration Removal Centre, it is a ‘Detain You Indefinitely while TRY to Remove YOU Centre’.

We are very grateful to the North East Bedford MP Alistair Burt for granting us a visit on the 9/03/18

We are very grateful to the Minster of State for the Middle East and North East Bedford MP Alistair Burt for granting us a visit on the 9/03/18 where a few of us got the opportunity to talk to him about our concerns and give him the list of our demands which he stated he could deliver to the Immigration minister, we trust as a member of the cabinet he has the ability to do so in a timely manner.

I am hopeful as he was most attentive and showed genuine interest in our situation.

He confirmed that the purpose of Immigration Removal Centres is to detain those the Home Office can remove and not people they intend to remove, and I hope that we will be free to fight our cases from a different position soon. I hope he takes active measures to ensure the Home Office apply this policy as in was intended and not as the Home Office choose to interpret it.

The fact that a considerable number of detainees are eventually released into the community clearly demonstrates that there is no purpose in their detention in the first place and this is unfair, counterproductive, and a costly measure both to the people detained and the tax payer.

I hope he does not forget about us in this tucked away, quiet part of his constituency and we hope to hear from him soon.