Mass hunger strike continues at Yarl’s Wood

19 JUNE 2009. –  After being unable to speak to an Immigration Officer, Juliette Umoru, Lorraine and more than 40 women detained in the Families Section in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre have decided to maintain the hunger strike until their demands are met.
Today is the 5th day of the hunger strike but the prisoners have not heard any news from the Immigration Officers.

According to Juliette Umoru and Lorraine they only want to sort out their demands. The prisoners urge:

1) Relocate a 30 year old woman with epilepsy. She is not receiving medical attention and suffers from convulsions constantly. She is lying on the floor most of the time. The other inmates don’t help her as they do not want to make a fatal mistake.
2) Resolve the situation of a 5 months pregnant woman, who was arrested two months ago and who is extremely sick. She stays in bed all day and does not receive medical attention.
3) Resolve the situation of almost 20 children (between 5 months and 2 years old). They are with their mothers and able to play with other kids, but they are showing clear signs of tension, pressure, distress and anxiety. Some women have been detained for more than two months and the children can’t understand the situation.
4) Talk to the Immigration Officer, Sarah (no surname supplied), who must listen these requests. (Sarah’s name was suggested by the Serco’s manager).
5) Adequate access to health care, quality food and real privacy.
6) Restore the communications between Juliette Umoru and her husband Steve, who is not allowed to talk to her.

Mr Umoru took part in the demonstration last Wednesday in Yarls Wood. Guards took away all the protesters and pulled the men away from the women. Juliette’s husband Steve was injured and bleeding.
According to Juliette and Lorraine during the protests about 40 guards confronted the men involved. One of them was Juliette’s husband, who was injured in the struggle. Also, Juliette’s child fell from her back and an officer stepped on the child. “I was screaming and ask him to see what he was doing, but he did not listened and looked the other way.”

Although the hunger strike now reaches five days, the staff of Yarls Wood and the Home Office have shown total indifference to the demands. “They do not care at all what happen to us. It doesn’t bother them if our children are suffering or having problems, they don’t mind if a women are sick and convulsing,” says Lorraine.

There are between 20 and 40 women waiting in this section (Families Section); every day some of them are deported usually without even knowing the Home Office answer to their appeals.

Fast-track asylum decisions are against their rights. “The Home Office – they say – has the last word and doesn’t respect the law or basic procedures”.

The Dove Section

Something similar is happening at Dove Section in Yarls Wood. For two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 100 women detained staged a hunger strike to protest the way they are being deported to their countries of residence. Some of them are deported the day following their arrest, without even being allowed to get a lawyer, inform their family and friends of their status or even just keep their belongings.

Women arrested are from China, Pakistan, India, Latin America, India, China and other countries. Every day a minimum of six women are deported, wearing the same clothes they arrived in because they were not allowed to get their own clothes. In addition, many of them did not have time to hear the answer to their appeal. Many of them don’t speak English and are unable to implement their rights.

It is reported that a woman tried to commit suicide. She cut her veins of both hands but a guard stopped her and took her to the hospital. This is something that is happening on a daily basis. Depression, anxiety, fear, anxiety, uncertainty … “It is a psychological torture. We are conscious we have nothing to lose. They bring the TV to show all the comforts we have, but they do not mind that we have no rights, even to know how our cases are developing.”

According to them, their appeals are not being studied in a reasonable length of time and many are deported without having a response from the Home Office. Inmates also complain that the food they receive is inadequate.

Obviously Home Office and Yarl’s Wood are violating the basic rights of the prisoners.

Mónica del Pilar Uribe M.

Take action to support Yarl’s Wood detainees

  • Picket SERCO today – Fri 19 June – 12pm-1pm – at their head office, Hand Court, Holborn
  • Contact SERCO (who run Yarl’s Wood) and demand that the strikers’ demands are met – (0)1344 386300 – homeaffairs@serco.com
  • Contact Yarl’s Wood and ask that communications between Juliette Omuru and her partner Steve are restored and the strikers demands are met – 01234 821000
  • Contact Alaister Burt MP for Yarls Wood – burta@parliament.uk
  • Forward this news to any email lists you are on or press contacts you have
  • If you can donate towards credit for detainees’ mobiles or travel costs for solidarity visits, email feminist.fightback@gmail.com and a few of us will bring it up when we visit on Sunday