Friday, February 23, 2018

Asylum Detainees on Hunger Strike

Around 120 female detainees in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre have gone on hunger strike over “inhumane” conditions at the facility. They began their protest on Wednesday, urging the Home Office to end “offensive” practices which they said leave people “breaking down psychologically” after being detained for immigration reasons.

Women taking part in the strike said they had “given up thinking about the outside world” due to uncertainty over being locked up indefinitely, saying the centre was “failing” to meet their health needs. One said she was “struggling to find a reason to go on”. In a statement, the women on hunger strike said they believed the Home Office was “overwhelmed”, saying it was “not fit for purpose” and accusing it of operating in a “rogue manner”.

One Algerian woman taking part in the strike, who was detained three months ago after living in the UK since the age of 11, told The Independent she felt she was being “broken down” by the system. She said: “Every day I wake up and I have to think of a reason to go on. I’ve given up thinking about the outside – I’ve given up thinking about it. I feel like I’m in someone’s dungeon and no one is letting me out. “I might as well be blindfolded in a van going 100 miles an hour in a direction I don’t know. The indefinite detention causes people so much stress. People are breaking down psychologically. We have no fight left. They break you down. It’s inhumane. “And there’s no psychological help. I’ve tried speaking to a psychological nurse in the centre about issues I have, and he advised me to speak to my solicitor about it.”

They highlight that the Government “refuses to accept that rape is torture”, as rape victims are detained despite a policy stating victims of torture must not be detained for immigration reasons. The document also highlights that the UK is the only country in the EU with no time limit on detention, and accuses the Home Office of “incompetent and untimely manner in handling cases”. he hunger strike comes after research in November found the Government was routinely detaining victims of sexual violence in Yarl’s Wood in breach of its own policy, introduced in 2016, that it should not detain “at risk” or vulnerable people. Women for Refugee Women, revealed that 85 per cent of women who had sought asylum and been detained after the new policy came into force were survivors of rape or other gender-based violence, including forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced prostitution.

A watchdog report published later in November found the majority of women held at the controversial detention centre were later released into the community, raising concerns as to why they were ever detained. HM Inspectorate of Prisons also raised concerns over the continued detention of women who had been tortured and two responses where the Home Office had refused, without explanation, to accept that rape came within the legal definition of torture.

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