“Why should the fortune of birth dictate what rights a person should have within our borders?… We must all fight together to stop this spiral into division, intolerance and the disintegration of liberty, for liberty is easily lost, but very hard earned.” – The strikers of Yarl’s Wood.
On 21st February 2018, 120 people detained at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire started a protest which has become known as #HungerForFreedom. Since then, strikers have been taking part in a variety of protest actions – including refusing food, refusing to work, and refusing to use services inside detention. They have removed themselves from detention, but their bodies remain behind bars.
The UK’s hidden – but extensive – detention estate is a national disgrace, and one that causes significant harm both to those incarcerated and to their loved ones.
This country is the only EU state that has no time limit on immigration detention, which places detainees under immense mental strain. The strikers in Yarl’s Wood have said that the uncertainty over how long they would be held “is a killer”.
In 2017, 44 children were locked up in immigration detention – despite a Government promise in 2010 to end the practice. Only 11 of the children then left the country: the remainder were released, meaning that their detention was not only harmful, but futile.
The strikers in Yarl’s Wood – which is primarily used to detain women – issued a list of demands against the detention system and the conditions, that included an end to the detention of vulnerable people and victims of torture, and respect for the European Convention on Human Rights.
A number of politicians and advocates – including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott; Shadow Attorney General and ex-Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti; Stuart McDonald MP; and the Home Affairs Select Committee – have visited the strikers, and spoken out in solidarity with them.
There have been a series of vigils and fasts in support of the strikers in London, across the UK, and internationally. On Wednesday, events took place in various cities across the UK as a National Day of Action to support the strikers.
This Saturday is your chance to get involved – on the 24th March, an alliance of groups will be demonstrating outside Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire. Now is a crucial time to show solidarity with detainees: we are encouraging our supporters to attend the demonstration, and shine a light on the cruel and unjust conditions faced by detainees.
Two coaches have been organised to leave from Central London, and will be leaving from the London Bridge area at 9.45am – further details will be announced closer to the date, and everyone who has signed up for a ticket will be receiving a follow up email with all necessary information, including a contact phone number for on the day logistics. There are a number of other coaches organized from citites across the UK: coach booking information can be found here, and further information found on the Facebook event here. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We stand in solidarity with the men, women and children who are detained across the UK, and join the strikers in their call for an end to unjust and indefinite detention.