Women speak out in Parliament against detention, deportation, privatisation and profiteering. 14 January 2010
Report of meeting and more speaches
My name is Selina, I was detained twice in Yarl’s Wood, for 4 months while pregnant and again for 3 weeks when my baby was only 9 weeks old.
I was sick from the pregnancy and couldn’t make it to the dining room. Taking food into the rooms is not allowed, so sick women go for days without food. My friends would sneak some food to the room for me so I wouldn’t starve.
I had removal directions five times and was taken to the airport twice. I was on the fast track and had no lawyer but I put in my own submissions and refused to go. This made my Home Office case worker very angry. He came to see me and told me that he would do everything in his power to make sure I am removed and if I still refused to go he would make sure I was sent to prison and gave birth there. He said people like me flout the NHS and that he hadn’t been able to get a knee operation because of this. I am going to complain to the Home Office about his racism and threats.
While I was there this recent time a lot happened. The Children’s Commissioner came to visit and in preparation for his visit, a lot was changed. Rooms were made comfortable for nursing mothers: they added kettles, sterilizers and nursing chairs. Walls were painted and on the day of visit, the officers wore pink and lilac shirts instead of the normal white shirts.
When the Children’s Commissioner came they put on a show for him. The atmosphere changed: the officers were helping mothers with several children and one family was not removed because their daughter had a temperature. Normally they would have been taken to the airport anyway. Things went back to normal the following day.
A week later while watching the news, we saw David Woods, Director of the UK Border Agency, being interviewed by Channel Four, saying how kids aren’t being detained for more than 16 days. We felt outraged because some of us had been there longer than that, some for six weeks and counting. Also he said the uniforms in Yarl’s Wood had been changed, though I only saw them change when officials came to visit. I was angry that no one with experience of being detained was in the studio to tell the truth.
A few days later a group of MPs came to Yarl’s Wood. We saw the pink shirts again, and asked who was coming. I spoke to Keith Vaz MP.
Since then, Keith Vaz appeared on BBC. He said he does not support detaining of children, but he said "The system must be cleaned up so that those who have been refused settlement in the UK are deported as soon as possible”. But many women in our group have been refused asylum because their lawyer didn’t do their job and wouldn’t get the evidence they needed. We don’t want more fast track we want an end to the fast track. If women and children are deported even quicker than now, even more of us will face very dangerous situations, including torture or even death. Why don’t the politicians who say they support asylum seekers ask us first what we need to survive, and be safe?