Protests at Yarl's Wood : Refugee Council response - Refugee Council
March 4, 2010

Protests at Yarl’s Wood : Refugee Council response

As women continue to hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in protest over the conditions and length of their detention, the Refugee Council is calling for an end to the indefinite detention of people who have claimed asylum. The Refugee Council is deeply concerned about the current events at Yarl’s Wood, and is disappointed the government has dismissed evidence from detainees themselves about their treatment there, as well as ignoring the growing body of evidence from health professionals that immigration detention is seriously damaging to physical and mental wellbeing.

The reported protest by 50 women began almost four weeks ago at the detention centre in Bedfordshire, and subsequent allegations of physical and racial abuse at the centre have resulted in legal challenges and sparked an outcry from refugee and human rights organisations. John McDonnell MP has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for an inquiry into the situation.

In response to the protests, a letter to parliamentarians from Home Office minister Meg Hillier MP refuted doctors’ concerns about the health of the protesters and stated that women were in fact able to access food. This has been contested by women detained at the centre, and those who have now been transferred to HMP Holloway.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“The Refugee Council has been campaigning for a number of years to end the detention of asylum seekers. We will be contacting the Home Office in support of calls for an independent inquiry into the recent events at Yarl’s Wood, and to urge the government to urgently review the policy of detention for asylum seekers.

“The detention of families must end without delay, and under no circumstances should anyone be detained while their case is fast tracked through the system. This is especially damaging for women with complex claims involving sensitive issues such as violence or rape, as it offers little time and opportunity to prepare a legal case, and therefore sets asylum seekers up to fail in their claims. It is clear that this is a grave denial of justice and humanity.”