As reported last week, a number of women held at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre are protesting against the conditions of life in indefinite detention. Some women are still refusing food as part of a hunger strike.
It appears the centre’s managing company (Serco) initially tried to deny there was a hunger strike.
It has since emerged, thanks to Detained Voices, that the Home Office sent threatening letters to some detainees, mentioning that such protest would not delay their deportation process – and may in fact lead to speedier deportation.
This situation has led a number of campaign groups and politicians to challenge the Home Office. MP David Lammy and shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott filed an “urgent question” today in Parliament during which Immigration minister Caroline Nokes apparently confirmed the pressures exerted on protesting detainees.
As AVID confirms, this is indeed part of the Home Office’s standard guidance:
The Home Office released a Detention Service Order on 'detainees who refuse food' in Oct 2017: https://t.co/NLf5DPpao0
Form E is the letter that threatens accelerated deportation: https://t.co/CcqjNSxdtB
So yes, Punitive measures are Home Office official policy. #HungerForFreedom https://t.co/xfSjuKNxSs
— AVID (@AVIDdetention) March 6, 2018
.@carolinenokes says we want nobody in detention to be refusing food and it’s important we explain to them the risks that are being involved – the letters handed to them are part of official home office guidance.
— PARLY (@ParlyApp) March 6, 2018
Yet as David Lammy notes, his question about how the Home Office’s practice squares with human rights principles got a response that was less than satisfactory.
My question to the Immigration Minister on Yarl's Wood: surely indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees and threatening to accelerate deportations without due process is in contravention to human rights law. The answer did not even mention the words "human" or "rights" pic.twitter.com/HpyOPzDR0P
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) March 6, 2018
The protest is ongoing. You can take a pledge to fast in support of the hunger strikers.