Speaking for Ourselves

Cruel, unjust and a national disgrace

Cruel, unjust and a national disgrace


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Cruel, unjust and a national disgrace

Migrant Voice stands in solidarity with the group of women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre who began a strike on 21 February. Last week  we expressed that this was shocking because of the existence of inhumane conditions that have driven them to this extreme action, and because similar complaints were raised years ago by hunger-strikers at another removal centre, Harmondsworth. Now what is even more shocking is the most recent development, where the Home Office have threatened the women with accelerated deportation process if they continue their hunger strike. It seems that the Home Office have no regard for due process and insists on treating detainees outside the law.

Since the previous hunger strike at Harmondsworth action we have had the Shaw Review, in which former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw drew attention to failures in the system, and several government initiatives and announcements. Yet immigration detention policies remain cruel, unjust, and a national disgrace.
Many of those detained have committed no crime. They are guilty only of applying for asylum, or because their papers have expired, or, as illustrated by recent Kafkaesque cases of Commonwealth citizens who have lived and worked here for decades, because of Home Office muddle. Some women are married or have British partners and children. Others came to the UK as children. They are being punished for their parents’ immigration histories.
The length of time in which people are detained is in itself intolerable, but what exacerbates this is that it is indefinite. UK is still the only European country to detain people indefinitely and we know the particular agony this causes. Just this week Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott criticised indefinite detention while visiting Yarl's Wood.

In addtion, deportations are carried out suddenly, with no time to notify family or friends.
In some cases, such as women who have experienced sexual violence, detention is against the government’s own policy. Serious mental and physical illnesses are often ignored or neglected; privacy is not respected; intimidation, racism and insults are common complaints.
Where’s the justice in all this?
As well as causing harm to the nearly 30,000 or so people who are placed in immigration detention ever year, these and other wrongs besmirch Britain’s reputation, and would shock many British people if they knew the realities of what’s being done in their name.
For these reasons Migrant Voice:

  • stands with the women at Yarl’s Wood and everyone in immigration detention
  • calls for the ending of immigration detention, which is unnecessary, inhumane, expensive and a failure - most people in detention are eventually allowed to remain in the UK
  • condemns detention as incompatible with fairness, justice and rule of the law

+ Previous Migrant Voice editorial on this topic: Home Office still locking up torture survivors; close down the detention centres. 

+  SOS Detainee Support
Like the women at Yarl's Wood I too have been on hunger strike – I know how urgent their demands are

Home Office tells women they will be deported more quickly for hunger striking