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Immigration Detention Yarl's Wood hunger strikes reach 25th day

HUNGER and labour strikes at Yarl’s Wood have reached a 25th day as the Home Office continues to deport detainees from the immigration removal centre near Bedford.

An attempt to deport one of the strikers on Friday was deferred at the last minute thanks to the efforts of campaigners Soas Detainee Support (SDS, formed at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies), supported by shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and a judicial review submitted by her legal team.

SDS said the detainee being taken to Heathrow for deportation is part of the Home Office’s attempts to speed up the cases of those protesting against their inhumane treatment at the facility.

Airlines can refuse to take passengers if they are being deported against their will, but flight operator Kenyan Airways denied any responsibility and threatened to call the police to put off those trying to stop the deportation.

A Yarl’s Wood detainee expressed outrage after discovering her friend was being forcefully deported.

“She was very much against this and had an ongoing case with the Home Office, which she tried to explain,” the detainee said. “It is really unfair she was being taken away in this manner.”

The woman was restrained in segregation up until the cancellation, despite not showing resistance.

“They even restrained her legs because she started to cry.” 

SNP MP Stuart McDonald visited Yarl’s Wood on behalf of the home affairs select committee on the same day, before the next stage of its inquiry into immigration detention.

He met some of the women on strike to discuss shared concerns on the nature of indefinite detention and the need for an upper time limit on the length of immigration detention.

Strikers raised concern that the Home Office was not taking their grievances seriously.

One said: “We struggle every day to keep fighting for basic human rights as well as our own personal battles.

“The longer we are detained the more difficult it is for us to see any positive outcome.”

Detainees and campaigners argue detention is harmful and unnecessary.

Indefinite detention is opposed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

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