Nearly 200 people gathered on Saturday
21st March in Bedford town centre, than heading to Yarl's Wood
immigration prison, demanding its closure. Yarl's Wood has 405 capacity
and holds single women and families with children. The building of a new
immigration prison, next to Yarl's Wood, has just been approved, to
hold 500 single men.
There were many asylum seekers and
ex-detainees in the protest, alongside anti-racist groups, students and
campaigners. Most people came from London, but there were Bedford based
campaigners and people from Birmingham, South Wales, Leicester, Oxford,
Brighton. There were also lots of police to cordon the protest.
The locals' reactions were mixed: some
were quite sympathetic but others were very hostile, it appears that
lots of racists live in that area. We had a small but very keen samba
band, and a little sound system operated by the women from the All
African Women Group, who chanted and spoke with great energy all the
way. Slogans included: Close Yarl's Wood now! Rape survivors need
protection, not detention! One world, no borders! The world belongs to
all of us, we have the right to stay! Stop detention, stop deportations!
We also had a phone line with the related protests in Manchester and
Yarl's Wood is about 5 miles from
Bedford, which we walked all the way through the fields and through the
smaller town of Clapham, situated a mile from the immigration prison.
Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day!
We stopped at the prison's gate, were
heavy police lines were waiting for us to arrive, they even had an
helicopter circling in the air! (just in case we decided to run through
the fields...) We sat in the grass and began a rally. A woman ex-
detainee in Yarl's Wood spoke first, clearly and couragiously, of her
experience of being raped and tortured in her home country and how
detention exacerbated her trauma, how rape survivors are guarded by male
gards who can enter their rooms every moment. Than another woman
Than a man spoke, who has been detained
in Yarl's Wood for two months and a half with his wife and two small
children, aged one and four. He spoke of how bad it was for the
children, how they tried to separate him from his family. He was a
politician in his home country and he said 'most of us had a much better
life in our countries than here', only he had to run because his life
was in danger! Instead of protection he found himself detained with his
family, with a flight booked to his country; he said: 'why do they want
to send me to the one country in the world where I am in danger?' This
family were only saved from deportation, and later released, thanks to
the SOAS Detainee Support Group, a student group who regularily visit
women and families detained in Yarl's Wood, help them to find decent
legal repersentation and campign on their behalf.
Than we had a direct line with the women
detained inside, via mobile and sound system, everybody describing how
hard it is, how the cannot bear being in detention, mothers with
children who are getting sick and are not eating, women who have been
detained for a very long time... but is really difficult to write about,
hope somebody recorded their voices, it makes my hair stand up only to
think about what I heard. Than a woman doctor who is a volunteer with
Medical Justice spoke about the trauma and suffering of the children
detained in Yarl's Wood.
Than other activists spoke, inviting
people to continue the struggle against detention and deportations, and
join the groups who phone and support the people in detention such the
Crossroads Women Centre and SOAS Detainee Support Group.
The protest ended as peacefully as it had
started, and people headed back to the coaches or went to Bedford for a
late lunch and informal gathering.
The UK government are planning to
increase the use of detention by 60 %, speed up the rate of
deportations, increase the use of the detained 'fast track', by which
people escaping persecution, war and torture are detained on arrival and
given 5 days to prepare their cases and two days to appeal...leading to
a refusal rate up to 99%. (the fast track was originally introduced to
deal with claims that are 'clearly unfunded': in fact a staggering
number of torture and rape survivors end up on the fast track!)
Is up to us to oppose this barbaric and inhumane system of immigration controls, by any means necessary...and do our best!
End of Bulletin:
Source for this page:
Text: One of No Borders - Photos: John O MOUJK