Monday, 1 March 2010

Solidarity with the detainees at Yarl's Wood

Yesterday, the Observer reported that "Senior Home Office officials will be questioned this week over allegations that women inside Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre were assaulted by staff using riot shields." This comes after significant efforts from immigrant and refugee groups to draw attention to the issue, holding their latest and largest protest on the issue only two days earlier.
That the rebellion inside the centre has finally gained national exposure can be counted as a significant victory. However, the vast majority of the media stil holds to a rabidly anti-immigrant line. With the government determined to do the same, gaining anything more than temporary exposure remains difficult.

A case in point is the letter from Home Office minister Meg Hillier to MPs. In it, as No Borders Brighton point out, "her basic argument is that 'you are all liars'." She dismisses the complaints made as "based on inaccurate and fabricated statements by those who campaign against our policy," brazenly claiming that raising the issue "is irresponsible as it causes unnecessary distress to the women at Yarl’s Wood." Her response to allegations about "incidents of racial abuse and violence directed at detainees" is equally outrageous. Without even the pretence of any formal inquiry into what are clearly very serious allegations, she insists that "there was no such behaviour by our staff" and that "the detainees are treated with respect."

Essentially, in the words of No Borders Brighton, she is "repeating the same points that the UKBA had made about the Aynsley-Green report the week before, namely that it contained "factual inaccuracies" and that in some areas, it was "misguided and wrong."" Clare Sambrook was quick to tear such nonsense apart in Comment is Free, and in this case the pictures do the same job.

As these revelations emerge, and the government tries desperately to rubbish them, activists are making demands for justice. Click here to read the demands put forth by the National Coalition of Anti-Deporation Campaigns (NCADC) and download a model letter to send to the Home Secretary. At the same time, lawyers today launch a legal challenge on behalf of four of women held at Yarl’s Wood, claiming their incarceration amounts to “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment that breaches their human rights.

For more direct action, this Wednesday (3rd March) there will be a demonstration outside HMP Holloway from 18.30. The prison is on Camden Road in London. Either way, what is clear is that the detainees in Yarl's Wood, as with people everywhere who face injustice, deserve our support and solidarity.