International Women’s Day vigil
5pm Thursday 8 March 2018, Carfax, Oxford
in support of the demands of women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood migrant prison Bedfordshire
and the 24-hour solidarity Freedom Fast
On 21 February, more than 120 people detained in Yarl’s Wood engaged in a three-day hunger strike protesting the lack of a time limit for how long people can be detained and the inhumane conditions of the centre itself. On 26 February, they escalated to an all-out strike, releasing a statement saying “we will cease to participate in detention, we will not eat, use their facilities or work for them.”
Since then, the Home Office has taken punitive action, including by attempting to deport hunger strike participants Florence and Opelo Kgare on Saturday 3rd March, before their case was complete. This deportation attempt was halted thanks to pressure from the women’s friends, the involvement of Labour MPs and the intervention of Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes.
In response to the escalating injustice, a new website was launched yesterday (freedomfastyarlswood.com) calling a 24-hour ‘freedom fast’ on Thursday 8th March – International Women’s Day. Within a day, more than 200 people had pledged to participate.
The hunger strikers’ demands are for ‘a fair system and an end to the hostile environment policy towards people with legitimate reasons to remain in the UK’:
§ “We want an end to indefinite detention and a return to the original plan of the 28-day limit.
§ We want the Home Office to respect Article 8.
§ We want the Home office to respect the European Convention of Human Rights regarding refugees and asylum seekers.
§ We want the Home Office to respect due process and stop deporting people before their cases are decided or appeals are heard.
§ We want due processes before we are imprisoned on immigration matters.
§ We want a fair bail process and the Home Office to end the process of selective evidence disclosure to the immigration tribunal courts and instead disclosure of all evidence to ensure a fair judgement is reached.
§ We want adequate healthcare and especially the mental health nurse to stop operating as an extension of the Home Office asking people such questions as, “did you know you were going to stay in the UK when you entered?”
§ We want the Home Office to stop detaining the vulnerable people, that is victims of rape, that is torture, all forms of torture, trafficking, forced labour, the disabled, the mentally ill and so on.
§ We want amnesty for all people who have lived in the UK for more than 10 years and an end to the exiling of those who came as children and are culturally British.
§ We want an end to the Home Office’s of employing detainees to do menial work for £1 per hour, it prays on the vulnerable and forces them to participate in their own detention.
§ We want an end to charter flights and the snatching of people from their beds in the night and herding them like animals.”
“The women in Yarl’s Wood face intimidation and sexual harassment. Companies like Serco are profiting from this horrendous treatment of people in detention centres. The UK immigration system is rotten to its core.” – Sam, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
“The women of Yarl’s Wood are desperate and we owe them a duty of care.” – Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott