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23 Feb, 2018 17:36

‘Treated like animals’: Yarl’s Wood detainees starve themselves to protest ‘inhumane’ detention

‘Treated like animals’: Yarl’s Wood detainees starve themselves to protest ‘inhumane’ detention

Around 120 Yarl’s Wood detainees are on day three of a hunger strike in protest at the shutdown of the ‘inhumane’ immigration removal center. They want to change what they call the “thoroughly racist” system, a campaigner told RT.

The detainees started the strike on Wednesday in protest at the “offensive” treatment at the hands of the Home Office. They say that because the UK is the only country in the EU to not have a limit on detention, they “have given up thinking about the outside.”

The demonstrators also claim that subjects who are considered to be “at risk” or vulnerable because they are victims of rape and other abuse are being routinely detained. That despite the Home Office introducing a law forbidding detention of such people in 2016.

“The Home Office... continues to detain victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The healthcare system does not meet the needs of most detainees. Ailments are left to become [very serious] before being dealt with, if at all,” a joint statement by the women demonstrators said.

It comes after research in November by Women for Refugee Women found that despite the new framework, 85 percent of women detainees were survivors of rape and other gender-based violence. Antonia Bright, a representative of Movement for Justice (MoJ), told RT the detention center is intrinsically “racist.”

“The resistance being shown by detainees currently in Yarl’s Wood is really strong and important and represents the anger and boldness felt in all detention centers. What they are doing is expressing what is true about the immigration system. That it is thoroughly racist and that it doesn’t care about the human beings it deals with.

“It just treats them as a number,” Bright said. She went on to suggest that Yarl’s Wood, which is managed by private security company Serco, is so saturated with detainees who have previously been victims of rape and abuse that, were they set free, “there would be no one in detention.”

Describing the conditions in which detainees are kept, Bright said detainees complain about the health care, as the majority are “given paracetamol and sent away.” Those who have had a hospital operation are sent back to the IRCs, Bright claimed, despite the facilities being unable to “cope with the needs of the people that they hold on to.”

She blasted the system as “thoroughly cynical,” before adding: “The place can be run as cheap as possible as the people inside don’t matter. That is why [detainees] can say they are treated like animals.”

The detainees are also protesting against the Home Office’s breach of habeas corpus as most detainees are thrown behind bars without a judge’s decision. The MoJ campaigner added the UK immigration system operates on the basis of detainees being considered “guilty until proven innocent,” rather than the other way around.

Asked if the immigration system could be overhauled so that detention is made acceptable, Bright said: “The detention system is an extension of a racist and anti-immigrant policy, so there is no way of that [being] palatable.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls, especially in support for the removal of those with no lawful basis to stay in the UK.

“We take the welfare of our detainees very seriously and any detainees who choose to refuse food and fluid are closely monitored by on-site healthcare professionals.”

By Claire Gilbody-Dickerson, RT

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