Press Release: Yarl’s Wood detainees end hunger strike after one month; Hunger for Freedom protests continue

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Wednesday 21st March 2017

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Yarl’s Wood detainees end hunger strike after one month; but Hunger for Freedom protests continue

 

  • People detained at Yarl’s Wood started a series of hunger strikes, work strikes and occupations on Wednesday 21st February
  • On Wednesday 21st March, strikers have announced they are ending their hunger strike but will continue Hunger for Freedom protests and refuse to participate in their detention
  • Demonstrations are taking place in cities across the UK in a National Day of Action in solidarity with the strikers.

 

Immigration detainees at Yarl’s Wood have been staging hunger strikes, work strikes and a series of occupations inside the building since Wednesday 21st February.  They are calling for an end to indefinite detention, an end to mass deportations by charter flight, and an end to mistreatment at the detention centre. A full list of strikers’ demands is published on the Detained Voices website [1].

In a statement this morning [2], the strikers in Yarl’s Wood have announced an end to the hunger strike, but a continuation of Hunger for Freedom protests. The strikers’ emphasise; “We are still hungry for our freedom and justice. We will continue to fight for our human rights and will not participate in our own detention” [2] . The strikers will continue to organise internally and fight for their demands.

The statement outlines that many of the original group of strikers are no longer at Yarl’s Wood, having been deported or released back into the community. Strikers emphasise that; “this action only highlights the reasons we were driven to take such drastic measures, as the Home Office, rather than being concerned with our welfare […] instead capitalised on our weakened state.” [2]

Solidarity groups will be staging demonstrations in

Glasgow: https://www.facebook.com/events/319801881880913

Leeds: https://www.facebook.com/events/361984667615143/

Liverpool: https://www.facebook.com/events/397793477351203/

Bristol: https://www.facebook.com/events/560292434350887/

Manchester: https://twitter.com/WASTCampaigning/status/976239864873136128

Campaigners in London will demonstrate outside the Home Office on Marsham Street from 4.30pm [3].  The demonstration will feature a live telephone link-up with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers over a PA system.  Demonstrators include SOAS Detainee Support, London Latinxs, and the All African Women’s Group, many of whom have formerly been detained in Yarl’s Wood and continue to face the asylum system.

Yesterday, members of the Home Affairs Select Committee questioned Serco on the demands of the hunger strikers, but the Home Office are yet to respond. Members of Parliament including Diane Abbott, David Lammy, Ruth Smeeth, Jess Phillips, Yvette Cooper and Stuart McDonald have spoken in Parliament during the hunger strike about their concerns regarding the use of immigration detention. Stuart McDonald of the Home Affairs Select Committee, met with strikers on 16/03/18 and expressed solidarity with their cause [4]. In a debate in the House of Commons with other MPs about the strikes and state of immigration detention in the UK, McDonald emphasised, “it is time for a radical reform of detention in the UK” [5].

The strikers call on everyone to show their solidarity and support;

“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.” [2]

NOTES

Yarl’s Wood is an Immigration Removal Centre in Bedford operated by the private company Serco on behalf of the Home Office. The centre has capacity for up to 410 detainees. It is the UK’s only detention centre that primarily holds women.

Around 30,000 people are detained in immigration detention centres each year in the UK. The UK is the only country in Europe with no specified legal time limit for detention.  Many detainees are held for months or years with no release date. Detainees and campaigners argue detention is harmful and unnecessary.

 

[1] The strikers’ demands https://detainedvoices.com/2018/02/25/the-strikers-demands/

[2] Strikers’ statement 21st March https://detainedvoices.com/2018/03/21/today-marks-the-28th-day-since-we-began-our-strike-here-in-yarls-wood/

[3] London Demonstration https://www.facebook.com/events/1798045227156286/?notif_t=plan_user_joined&notif_id=1521461058215043

[4] Stuart McDonald’s visit https://detainedvoices.com/2018/03/17/we-hope-the-home-office-will-have-to-face-questions-from-the-committee/

[5] Transcript of Parliament debate https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-03-06/debates/71488055-CD22-4018-B1BF-D12A31DCDF55/Yarl%E2%80%99SWoodDetentionCentre

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