Closing Yarl’s Wood and Brook House is a welcome step forward.

Diane Abbott’s proposal to close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House and end outsourcing in immigration detention provision is a welcome step forward in Labour Party policy. The announcement comes following a mass protest in Yarl’s Wood and a Panorama documentary that included undercover footage of appalling conditions in detention and abuse inflicted on detainees.

Although Yarl’s Wood and Brook House have become lightning-rods for immigration detention controversy, they differ little from other detention centres. 43 people have died in immigration detention since it started, including 4 people in Morton Hall (Lincolnshire) in 2017 alone. Colnbrook near Heathrow has one of the harshest regimes within the detention estate where people are locked in cells from 9pm to 8am. Harmondsworth, also near Heathrow, is the biggest detention centre in Europe and was the site of mass protests in 2014 and 2015, and there have been similar protests in Campsfield and Dungavel.

The problem cannot be associated with individual places of detention. It lies with a policy that gives the Home Office licence to lock people up based on their nationality, and a society that turns a blind eye to the inevitable violence dealt out on working class people of colour in any system designed for mass deportation.

Closing down Yarl’s Wood and Brook House would be an important step but it must be done within a wider policy that takes detention out of the immigration system altogether.

 

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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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CONTACT SOAS Detainee Support

For more information

Email: sdsmediaenquiries@gmail.com

Phone: Lex 07454417517

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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

THREE WEEKS ON – updated ways to show your solidarity with the Yarl’s Wood strikers

Three weeks ago today, 120 people in a detention centre in Bedfordshire (which holds mainly but not only women) started a hunger strike. It gathered momentum and has escalated into an all-out strike: work strikes, occupations, and a refusal to co-operate with the mechanisms of detention from the inside.

People inside continue to strike to demand that their voices are heard.  The strikers’ latest testimony on the Detained Voices website, released today, calls for a meeting with the Home Affairs Select Committee. This Committee are due to meet with private security company Serco, who run Yarl’s Wood, next week.

How can you continue to support the protests and stand in solidarity with the hunger strikers?

  1. Sign the Petition –  calling on the Home Office to grant the demands of Yarl’s Wood strikers
  2. Send a letter to your MP outlining what the strikers are calling for. Use this template, use the Write to Them website
  3. Tweet Solidarity photos – tweet, retweet and share photos holding signs of support for Yarl’s Wood strikers, and share using hashtag #HungerForFreedom.  Amplify the voices of the strikers by retweeting their accounts from @detainedvoices
  4. Support the strikers call on the Home Affairs Select Committee to meet with the strikers before they question Serco on Tuesday 20 March, and to question the Home Office and Immigration Minister by contacting the committee to let them know the strikers demands. On Tuesday 20th March 2018, the Home Affairs Select Committee are meeting to discuss Serco’s contract with the Home Office. The Yarl’s Wood Strikers are requesting a meeting with Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as any other members of the Committee as possible. The hunger strike is now into its third week. Over the weekend, a number of strikers were deported despite attempts to prevent this. It is imperative that the strikers are involved in the Committee’s decision as to whether Serco should retain its contract with the Home Office, particularly in light of the alleged abuses detainees have faced at the hands of Serco employees. We are asking you to contact Yvette Cooper, Stephen Shaw and their teams to request that they meet with the strikers before the Committee makes a decision on this important matter. [Full contact list and templates below]

Contact points

Select Committee members @CommonsHomeAffs

LINK TO: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP (Chair) Labour @yvettecoopermp

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/yvette-cooper/420

Rehman Chishti MP Conservative @rehman_chishti

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/rehman-chishti/3987

Sir Christopher Chope MP Conservative

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/sir-christopher-chope/242

Stephen Doughty MP Labour (Co-op) @sdoughtymp

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/stephen-doughty/4264

Kirstene Hair MP Conservative @kirstene4angus

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/kirstene-hair/4675

Sarah Jones MP Labour @laboursj

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/sarah-jones/4631

Tim Loughton MP Conservative @timloughton

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/tim-loughton/114

Stuart C. McDonald MP Scottish National Party @stuart_mcdonald

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/stuart-c.-mcdonald/4393

Douglas Ross MP Conservative @douglas4moray

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/douglas-ross/4627

Naz Shah MP Labour @nazshahbfd

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/naz-shah/4409

John Woodcock MP Labour (Co-op) @jwoodcockmp

https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/john-woodcock/3917

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Email template
To [Yvette Cooper/Stephen Shaw/etc],
I am contacting you as a concerned member of the public who has been following the Yarl’s Wood hunger strike. There are 120 women and men who are on hunger and work strike demanding significant, wide-reaching and reasonable changes to the detention policy. The demands of the strikers can be read here: [https://detainedvoices.com/2018/02/25/the-strikers-demands/]
The strikers have requested a meeting with yourself and the rest of the Home Affairs Select Decision before your meeting on Tuesday 20th March 2018 to discuss Serco’s contract with the Home Office. The strikers’ request can be read here: [https://detainedvoices.com/2018/03/14/we-the-yarls-wood-strikers-would-like-to-meet-with-yvette-cooper-chair-of-the-home-affairs-select-committee/]
I am imploring you to follow up on this request and arrange a meeting with the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers before you meet with Serco. Please discuss the strikers’ demands, the UK’s detention policy and Serco’s role in it, and the conditions in detention centres across the UK.
Please, allow their voices to be heard as they are vital in any assessment of Serco’s role in the immigration detention system.
Yours sincerely,
[Name]

[Postcode]

Twitter template

Please meet with the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers before your 20 Mar meeting to discuss Serco’s contract with the Home Office! This is their request on changing UK’s detention policy and the conditions in the IRCs: https://detainedvoices.com/2018/03/14/we-the-yarls-wood-strikers-would-like-to-meet-with-yvette-cooper-chair-of-the-home-affairs-select-committee/
#HungerForFreedom

4 actions you can take to support the Yarl’s Wood strikers

On Wednesday 21st of February a large group of women and men held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre began a coordinated 3-day hunger strike. The demands have been posted on the Detained Voices website.

They include:

  • Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and above
  • End indefinite detention – Detention periods shouldn’t be longer than 28 days
  • End Charter flights – Charter flights are inhumane because there are no prior notifications, or only an oral notification with no warning. They give no time to make arrangements with family.
  • No more re-detention – Redention should not be allowed – if you have been detained once, you should not be re-detained if you are complying with the laws they have applied. This is a contradiction, you are being punished for complying with the law; it ruins the whole purpose of expecting compliance

After receiving no response from the Home Office, the protesters have extended their strike.

“After an initial 3 day hunger strike where the Home Office refused to acknowledge the hunger strike, it is clear that they are not listening to us. On Monday 26/02/18, we will cease to participate in detention, we will not eat, use their facilities or work for them.”

Here are a number of ways those of us on the outside can support the protests:

  1. Sign the Petition –  calling on the Home Office to grant the demands of Yarl’s Wood strikers.
  2. Send a letter to you MP outlining what the strikers are calling for. Use this template, use the Write to Them website.
  3. Tweet Solidarity photos – tweet, retweet and share photos holding signs of support for Yarl’s Wood strikers, and share using hashtag #HUNGERFORFREEDOM
  4. Attend the Demo in London – Emergency protest outside the Home Office on Wednesday. Here are the details.

Ways of creatively amplifying the demands of the protesters, bringing them offline to new audiences are much appreciated.

 

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8 Reasons to hate the new Bail procedures

Most of Schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016 were brought into force this week. Here’s 8 reason to hate them.*

1)   The word Bail has lost its meaning

Bail used to be the process people can apply to get out of prison or detention. No longer. Anybody ‘liable to be detained’ can now be subjected to immigration bail and the punitive conditions bail enables residence requirements, reporting requirements, electronic tagging. Bail is now the word for the raft of community-based control measures now going to be imposed on all people without status. It is an expansion of state power to control their lives and further signals the government’s intent to treat people without documents as criminals.

2)   People who can’t be detained can now be subject to bail conditions

In addition, people who previously could not be detained, can now also be put on immigration bail – including if ‘the Secretary of State is considering whether to make a deportation order against the person’.

3)   There is a wide power of arrest for arrest for people on bail

If an immigration officer has reasonable grounds for ‘believing that the person is likely to fail to comply with a bail condition’, that person can be arrested. The procedures explicitly say that being on bail is no protection from being detained.

4) There are more limitations on when a judge can grant bail from detention

The tribunal is no longer permitted to grant bail for eight days after arrival in the UK or if removal is (supposed to be) within 14 days.

5)   The Home Office can ignore the Immigration Tribunal on bail

As well as being able to ignore some tribunal decisions to grant bail to someone detained, the Home Office can, in some instances, modify the conditions granted by the Tribunal without judicial oversight. This is a bizarre constitutional trickery allows the executive basically to ignore the will of the judiciary.

6)   Section 4 accommodation is no longer exists

Unless one is an refused asylum seeker and can receive s95a accommodation, the Home Office will only provide an address, ‘in exceptional circumstances’ – for example, where there are Human Rights concerns.  This means there will be people in detention who are eligible for bail who have to remain in detention because they cannot get housing. There have been increasing instances of people in detention being released without an address – it is unclear whether this will increase in the absence of s4.

7)   Automatic bail hearings was meant to be a positive reform

The lack of judicial oversight of decisions to detain is a major criticism of the current detention process. Automatic bail hearings after 4 months were won after significant campaigning by reformers. This is another example of the government subversively responding to calls for reform by expanding its own power.

8)   We are likely to see compulsory electronic tagging for people leaving detention in the future

The one positive element of the recent announcement is that they haven’t yet implemented powers to impose electronic monitoring on everyone applying for bail from within detention.

 

*This is a blunt account of some of the problems with the procedures and obviously lacks detail and exceptions – please look to expert accounts on freemovement.org.uk and other places for better information and look-up BID if you need help with obtaining bail yourself. If any of this information is wrong or misleading please get in touch @tomgk90

SDS Statement – Yarl’s Wood Demonstration

The recent testimonies describing abuse within Movement for Justice came as a shock to many organising groups. SDS, like many others, has had to consider at length how best to respond and proceed when events like this unfold.

In light of the organisation’s response to allegations of abuse, and events that have occurred since, SDS has made the collective decision to no longer attend the demonstration at Yarl’s Wood on Saturday.

We are concerned that the demonstration may not be a safe space for all involved and the reality of this would detract from the solidarity we wish to show with the women inside Yarl’s Wood. We urge people who are planning to go to not do so alone, to look after yourselves and each other.

As in our previous statement, SDS situates itself in a movement that fights for an end to borders and prisons and depends on safe and supportive spaces where the voices of those affected directly by the detention system are centered and listened to. Consequently, SDS feels that there must be a collective responsibility not to recreate structures of violence, oppression and abuse.

We stand in solidarity with those affected by immigration detention, and the hostile environment in the UK. We will continue to educate, strategise and build towards our vision: a world without borders or prisons.

In solidarity,

SOAS Detainee Support