By Kam Sandhu @KamBass
Suicide rates in UK immigration removal centres are at an all time high, averaging more than one a day.
Below are some speeches made by Ex-detainees at the Shut Down Yarl’s Wood demo last month.
‘Yarl’s Wood is hell. Yarl’s Wood is hell.
I’m telling you that Yarl’s Wood is hell on earth. Because while I was inside there, a lot goes on. One of us had a hospital appointment. She was handcuffed, for a hospital appointment. She refused them to handcuff her. She missed her appointment.
…18 year olds are inside there. Pregnant women are inside there. Some women, their husbands died, and they are inside there. They became widows inside there…They treat us like animals, we are human beings. There is no illegal person on Earth…
Female Ex-detainee, Yarl’s Wood
“There are people in there, in Yarl’s Wood that have spent more than two and a half years there – with no good food. The treatment we received in Yarl’s Wood – they called us animals at times…. Look at the windows – a few inches – they can’t come out, we can’t do anything in Yarl’s Wood.
“They don’t call us by name at times, they call us by room number, or block number…. Yarl’s Wood needs to be shut down. I am an asylum seeker. I am not a criminal. They arrested me where I stood, with nothing, straight to the airport to deport me. But thank god for the Movement of Justice I am here today free.”
Female Ex-detainee, Yarl’s Wood
“I was in detention for three months last year. I was detained. I put my paper in for application but they said it was rejected.
…The food is horrible. When you are sick, they treat you as if you are pretending. They say you are lying. I was there for a while, I was very sick and I was told I was pretending. I got an infection in detention and I was told I was pretending. They said ‘no you can’t go and see a doctor’…
Please shut down Yarl’s Wood. Our mothers are there. Our friends are there. They shouldn’t be there. There are nineteen year old kids that are there. People who have come here have lost their children to immigration. They have lost them to the Home Office. People in there have not seen their children for one year. People in there have not seen their kids. Their kids are in foster homes. Their kids are now adopted.
Do you know what they do to you if they want you deported? They inject you. If you refuse to go they inject you. How can they be so inhumane? They inject those who resist deportation. They inject you. That’s not good. And they deport by force. Daughters who are there. Mothers are there who have lost their children so people have become mentally ill. I saw a little girl, she started harming herself. Her whole body was full of marks.
Please release our girls. Release our girls. Shut down Yarl’s Wood now. Shut down Yarl’s Wood.”
Female Ex-detainee. Yarl’s Wood
“There’s a reason why we call it a racist prison, because it is so racist, that no matter what they see, even If they see that you are ill, they say that you are lying.
Every person in detention is treated as though they are a liar. Because that is how the government wants us to view people who are black, who are South Asian, who are from the Phillipines, who are from China. This is how they want us to view the migrant community. They want us to think that everyone is a liar. Everyone is a cheat. It is a lie designed to divide and rule us. All of us. It’s a lie designed to divide, be exploitative and get people to fight against each other. We reject that lie. We’re going to stand together united. No matter what country, what language, what religion, no matter what sexuality or gender identity, we are together in this fight and we will not stop.”
A Movement for Justice Organiser
“You hear such awful stories. The other day I was told by a woman she went for a blood test, she had this awful pain in her arm for the rest of the day. And then at 5 o’clock – she had the blood test at 10 – she found they left the tourniquet in her arm. G4S Healthcare. They are absolutely shameful and they are given the contract to look after women in there. Can you imagine how bad the healthcare is. G4S.
“Another woman was told she was being released. And then sorry, it was someone with a similar name. These people are messed around. They are at the mercy of the people in there. And they are people who have already suffered awful experiences; FGM, rape, all sorts of horrible things in their country and what have we done? We locked them up, we have made them more traumatized.”
A member of Yarl’s Wood befrienders
“It is not easy to be in Yarl’s Wood. By the time you come out of here, your mental state is gone. Look at them with that small space where you can only bring out your hand. But we keep fighting.
“I remember what happened one day. A Chinese woman was very ill in Yarl’s Wood..She was there for a long time. At one [point], she couldn’t walk, almost dying. The women held her hand and called the ambulance. It was coming to pick her up. When the officers learned the ambulance was coming they turned the ambulance back.
“Then they asked who called the ambulance? The women called the ambulance.
“That day the women won because they gave the woman medical attention.”
Female Ex-detainee, Yarl’s Wood
“Last time you guys came I was inside. I was one of those people that was moving with a flag, whatever I could reach. But today I’m outside and the fight continues.
“Something happened last year during the deportation, sometime in November.We didn’t care if we were going to win or lose but all we knew is that we were determined to fight. I was not on the checkout flight but I was determined to fight for myself. We were in a room with guys who were to be deported to Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone.
“When the first officer came in to call names, no answer. We just kept quiet. We didn’t talk. They go out and come back, they spoke but we didn’t talk. So they went to bring the Pastor, a Man of God. Because in there we have a Pastor and we respect him a lot.
So when he came, we appointed a spokesperson. They lead us to him and said ‘Pastor, if one person from Home Office would come and tell us why they have to sign our travel documents, because that is a fraud.’
You don’t sign travel documents on behalf of anybody. It’s like me going to the bank to forge your signature. So we told the Pastor ‘Get one of them to tell us why they have to sign on our behalf.’
That was fraud. You know what happened? The Pastor went back because we were telling the truth. Nobody could tell us why. If someone could tell us, we would back to Nigeria. The battle continued.
“Those that left the room were deported to Nigeria, but we were able to save about 15-20 who were in the room with us. So when the coach left for the airport, I went room to room getting snacks biscuits, bananas, whatever we could reach and we all huddled together in the room. And we said all of us are going to sleep together. No one is going to [their] room. You’re going to sleep in that room… We won the battle.”
Female Ex-detainee. Yarl’s Wood
“In 2010 when I came to the UK, when I passed through Birmingham airport, the only reason I came here is because I thought this is one country where I am going to learn how to go and teach the governments in Africa how to be humane. I came here, I spent £12000 at the University of Birmingham to get a masters degree in international politics, but then I was completely let down by the system. Because I realised that the UK, especially the current government, which incidentally came to power in 2010 is the worst government you can think of.
“Now this is the situation, I was working, I was editor of a magazine, I was in a good house. The next thing I new, they came in a raid. They knew where I was. I had never committed a crime but the next thing I was in a police station and I found myself in a place I had never heard of ; Morton Hall
“For three months, they did everything to break me down psychologically. I respect the women who have come out of this place. Each time I come here I have flashbacks of what goes on at Morton Hall, because it is a horrible system. It is a place where you are sexually assaulted because people come in and look at you like you are a caged animal. At Morton hall we are men, and women just come and open your door, they don’t knock. So the women at yarl’s wood do they come and open the door?
So tell me where on Earth can people’s dignity be so degraded. And what makes people be treated this way other than they have a different colour of passport. So if you were here today, wondering what this is all about; it is not immigration, it is institutionalised racism. It is a new form of apartheid, that the UK government has introduced
“When a British person goes to Cameroon, do you know what they call them? Ex-patriots. When a Cameroonian comes to the UK, do you know what they call him? Immigrant.
There is no immigrant because we are all human. And if you have moved from one country to another you are an ex-patriot because if a British person can be an ex-patriot in Africa, then a Cameroonian can be an ex-patriot.
“So we are all ex-patriots here, seeking a better life because we have 2-3m Brits staying abroad and none of them are put in detention and locked up. So we have to tell this government to stop scapegoating immigrants. Stop scapegoating people because of the colour of their passports. They cannot do it openly, they just shift the posts.
“Let us see that every detention centre is shut down.“
Male Ex-detainee, Morton Hall