Asylum Seekers Sue Britain After Hunger Strike

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Female asylum seekers held at the Yarl's Wood British detention center are suing the government for severe mistreatment. An inspector's recent report on the center finds women there are neglected.

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Torture Victims Undergo Unsuitable Procedures

Donna CoveySonya Sceats, policy officer at the Medical Foundation, said in a statement that torture victims are categorically unsuitable for inclusion in fast-track procedures.

"However, in practice significant numbers of torture victims--including women who have survived horrendous sexual abuse--are winding up in there," the statement said.

Yarl's Wood, run by Hampshire-based services company Serco on behalf of the U.K. Border Agency, has been the subject of long-running charges of cruelty and neglect by rights groups.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has defended Yarl's Wood and the government's handling of asylum seeker families.

"The sad fact is that some illegal immigrants refuse to comply with the decision of the independent courts and return home voluntarily," he said in a March statement. "The alternatives to centers like Yarl's Wood include putting children into care--which would mean separating them from their parents and risking increased child trafficking and further illegal immigration."

Donna Covey, chief executive of the London-based Refugee Council, the United Kingdom's largest refugee agency, is demanding a comprehensive review of the government's policy of detaining many asylum seekers.

"These are women who have committed no crime and their detention is inhumane, unnecessary and a waste of public money," said Covey in an interview with Women's eNews. "The government must rethink its policy on detention as a matter of urgency-- stop detaining children altogether and find an alternative for adults. Where detention is used, it must be only where absolutely necessary and for the shortest time possible."

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer based in Manchester, Britain. Her work can be found at

For more information:

Yarl's Wood Information Page, Black Women's Rape Action Project:

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales:

Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture:

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This story would not be believable if it were not true!
"Over 70 women were locked for several hours in a hot, airless corridor . . . and forced to urinate and vomit where they stood," Birmingham-based law firm Public Interest Lawyers or PIL, which is representing the four women, said in a public statement on the case. " " "Several women collapsed but received no medical assistance, and a window was slammed on one detainee's finger, ripping her nail off. One of PIL's clients was beaten by guards using riot shields as she and 18 other women were detained outside in the snow for over four hours." " How could this occur?!