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AROUND 120 detainees in the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre are on hunger strike to protest against “morally bankrupt” Home Office practices.
They started their hunger strike on Wednesday and released a list of demands yesterday.
A letter penned from inside the centre states the hunger strike is over violation of habeas corpus, indefinite detentions, lack of medical care and the locking up of sick and disabled people, torture and rape survivors, and minors.
It concludes: “We believe that the Home Office is overwhelmed, not fit for purpose and operates in a rogue manner.”
A separate letter lists demands, including amnesty for those who have lived in Britain for at least 10 years, capping detentions to 28 days, ending the use of charter flights to deport people without warning, and no re-detentions.
It reads: “We think it unfair that a person who’s (sic) vocational success is based on how many people they remove is responsible for deciding who is detained, this is an obvious conflict, morally bankrupt.
“If Liberty is to be taken, let it be taken not lightly and by a qualified Judge in a court of Law. The majority of detainees are not detained by a Judge.”
On children being detained, it says: “Young adults who come as minors and are culturally British are detained because of parents’ failure to complete paperwork.”
The letter urges Home Office officials to believe people who say they are gay or transgender and have suffered prejudice.
It also calls for emergency alarms to be fitted in every room, uncomfortable beds to be replaced, access to proper healthcare and provision of healthier food.
An account from a woman locked up in Yarl’s Wood that was posted in November on the Detained Voices website, where the recent letters can be read, says the food is so bad that “no dogs would eat it”.
She came to Britain 15 years ago and has two children. She states that the women there have no money to eat, lack fluency in English, a number of them suffer from mental illnesses, and are only allowed out of their room to eat.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said in response to the hunger strike: “This is very disturbing news.
“I have been trying to get into Yarl’s Wood for over a year and am finally being allowed to visit tomorrow.
“I intend to speak to the women there and hear first-hand their experiences and their concerns.”
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