120 women in Yarl’s Wood detention centre on hunger strike


Friday 23rd Feb 12pm
120 women detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre on hunger strike on day of Diane Abbot's visit

On the first day of the strike (Weds 21st Feb), the hunger strikers released a statement outlining the reasons for the strike (see Appendix 1). They then read a list of demands over the telephone on Thursday 22nd Feb (see Appendix 2 for full list). In further telephone conversations hunger strikers gave personal statements.

The hunger strikers’ immediate demands include :

●      End indefinite detention

●      Stop separating families

●      No re-detention

●      Make bail accessible

●      No detention of people who came to the UK as children

The statement from all the hunger strikers includes:

            “We believe that the Home Office is overwhelmed, not fit for purpose and operates
            in a rogue manner.”

“The Home Office... continue 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.”

Personal statements from the hunger strikers include:

            “Please take action to talk to the home office. Our voices aren’t heard because we are in here...Help us out there, to get our voices out. It’s important that people can hear our anger.” https://detainedvoices.com/2018/02/22/the-protest-is-about-their-system-of-indefinite-detention/

“We are not happy here and we don’t want to use your gym, we don’t want to go to your library, your salon, your shop, these are all token activities you use to justify our incarceration but know that we want our freedom not your silly limited activities.

We are not your guests, we are your captives whom you choose when to detain and when to release and when to deport.”


            “Rule 35 ... They just measure scars. And even behind those scars, there’s a story. They’re quick to refer you to a mental health and wellbeing specialist, but they ignore their own rules.” [1] https://detainedvoices.com/2018/02/23/statements-from-hungerforfreedom-strikers/

“The mental health nurses treat appointments like extensions of the immigration interview.” https://detainedvoices.com/2018/02/23/statements-from-hungerforfreedom-strikers/

Diane Abbott is visiting the centre today Friday 23rd February (10am-1:30pm). She has been obstructed access since November 2016 [2]. Detainees are currently being prevented from speaking to her.

Supporters outside detention are showing solidarity on social media using the hashtag #HungerForFreedom


[1] Rule 35 requires detention centre doctors to report to the Home Office ‘any detained person whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued detention or any conditions of detention.’  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/detention-rule-35-process

[2]  The Guardian, ‘Diane Abbott asks for explanation over denied access to Yarl's Wood’ 22nd December 2017


General information on Yarl’s Wood

●      Around 30,000 people are held in immigration detention every year.  This includes people seeking asylum and people waiting for decisions from the Home Office on their immigration status.

Home Office Statistics January to March 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2017/summary-of-latest-statistics

●      Yarl’s Wood is an Immigration Removal Centre in Bedford, run by Serco. The centre holds up to 410 detainees. On average 225 women are held, 52 family members, and 11 men.
            NAO report 2016/17 https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Yarls-Wood-Immigration-Removal-Centre.pdf

Contact SOAS Detainee Support

Laura - 07772056842

APPENDIX 1 - The Hunger Strikers’ Statement

The statement, which was faxed to SOAS Detainess Support outlines the reasons for the hunger strike, has been published online on the Detained Voices blog, which publishes verbatim testimony from people in immigration detention: www.detainedvoices.com/2018/02/21/yarls-wood-detainees-began-a-hunger-strike/ 

Transcribed statement from hunger strikers in Yarl’s Wood:

Yarl’s Wood Detainees

On the 21/02/18 the Yarl’s Wood Detainees began a hunger strike in which approximately 120 people took part in a protest against some of the more offensive practices of the Home Office which include but are by no means limited to the following:

-       Habeus Corpus (the violation of). We think it unfair that a person who’s 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.

-       The UK is the only country in the EU with no time limit on detention and people are detained indefinitely pending the Home Office’s incompetent and untimely manner in handling cases.

-       Rape.  The Home Office refuse to accept that rape is torture, we find this fundamentally offensive as they continue to detain victims of sexual and gender based violence.

-       Victims of Torture, Human trafficking, modern Slavery, asylum seekers and sick and disabled people continue to be detained.

-       Young Adults who come as minors and are culturally British are detained because of parent’s failure to complete paperwork

-       The healthcare system does not meet the needs of most detainees, Ailments are left to become serious before being dealt with if at all.

-       The L.G.B.T community is affected negatively due to prejudice, even discontinuing hormone treatment for transgender people.

We believe that the Home Office is overwhelmed, not fit for purpose and operates in a rogue manner.

APPENDIX 2 - The Hunger Strikers’ Demands

The demands were given to SOAS Detainee Support over the telephone, and were also published online on the Detained Voices blog:

1. Shorter bail request periods
Legally it should 3-5 days, however it can take anywhere up to 21 days, or even a month before you get a bail hearing date

2. Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and above

3. End indefinite detention
Detention periods shouldn’t be longer than 28 days

4. 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.

5. 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

6. End systematic torture

Systematic torture takes place in detention - at any point an officer could turn up and take your room mate; you’re constantly on edge, not knowing what will happen next. Those who are suicidal now have their privacy taken away because they are being watched – you don’t know if an officer is coming to check on you or coming to take you away. Our rooms are searched at random and without warning; they just search first and explain later

7. Stop separating families
Separating families is inhumane – people in here are married or have British partners and have children outside, and they are denied their right to private life and right to privacy; their Article 8 rights

8. No detention of people who came to the UK as children
Young adults who came to the country as minors should not be detained, deported or punished for their parents’ immigration histories

9. The beds need to be changed
Some of us have been here for a year on the same bed; they’re the most uncomfortable beds

10. LGBT+ persons’ sexuality be believed
It should be understood that explaining your sexuality is difficult

11. Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre

Only some rooms have them, and there have been a lot of cases of people being very ill in places where they can’t call for help

12. Give us access to proper healthcare

13. Give us proper food to look after our diets

14. Release people with outstanding applications

15. We want to speak to Alistair Burt MP for the constituency


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