Five women branded as ring leaders have been moved over the last weeks from Yarl’s Wood detention centre to prison, where they are being held without charge.
Over fifty women are entering their third week of a hunger strike in protest at the horrendous conditions and degrading treatment they suffer on a daily basis, and the racist immigration controls that have led to their incarceration. The response to this action has been an increase in brutality and victimisation from guards, and a white-washing from government.
Denise* is one of the women now being held in HMP Holloway. She escaped from Jamaica with her child after her brother was killed in gang wars and her family received death threats to stop them reporting to the police. Her other brother was deported to Jamaica on 29th January and was murdered there. She was detained for 11 months having been convicted and imprisoned for “racially aggravated assault” after police were called to an argument in a shop. She tried to stop police taking her five year old son from her, was held down and accused of kicking a police man. One of the officers (all white) called her a ‘Black bitch’ to which she responded ‘white bastard’.
Having been identified as a ‘ring leader’ of the current protests Denise was beaten by guards at Yarl’s Wood, held in solitary confinement for days and then removed to HMP Holloway last week.
Demo at Holloway Prison (Parkhurst Road, London, N7 0NU) this Wednesday (3rd March), 6.30pm, in support of the five hunger strikers imprisoned there – as well as the twenty women still refusing food at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.
Come and show your support and solidarity!
The mass hunger strike, which involved some 84 women at the start, was started on 5th February, sparked by detainees demanding that “the frustration and humiliation of all foreign nationals [in detention] ends now.”
On 8th February, Serco security guards tried to break up the protest by force. Some 70 women were locked in a corridor for up to 8 hours without access to food, water, toilet or medical care. Many collapsed and about 20, who tried to climb out of the windows, were beaten up and taken into isolation cells. Four of the women, singled out as ‘ringleaders’, were taken to Bedford police station and subsequently transferred to HMP Holloway in London, without being charged with any offence or brought before a judge.
A number of protests in solidarity with the hunger strikers have taken place, including pickets of Serco’s offices in Holborn, London, and one-day solidarity hunger strikes by students and campaigners.
This is not the first hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood. Parents detained in the centre went on hunger strike in 2006 in a desperate bid to draw attention to the sufferings of their children and a mass hunger strike broke out in 2009 (and met with violent assaults on detainees by Serco security guards).
*Denise was not released until 25th January 2011 after 28 months, one week and five days after being separated from her children who hold British passports.