Action alert: End the detention of families

Dear friends,

Over 80 people attended the House of Commons meeting Women’s Hunger Strike – Louder than Words (29 June 2010) which succeeded in making public how women seeking asylum are spearheading the movement against the injustice of the asylum system (and other injustices), and in gathering support for these efforts. We will be publishing a report shortly.

Many at the meeting were anxious to act immediately, and in particular to respond to the government review into Ending the detention of children for immigration purposes. It was clear that the only way to protect children is to protect their mothers or other main carer – families should not be detained. Neither should removals be fast tracked as this would deprive asylum seekers of the time they need to present their case properly. Over 60 people signed up to our letter which we are sending to the Review.

We appreciate it is very short notice but we wanted to let people know that the deadline for contributing to the review is tomorrow 1 July. Please write in support of women’s demand that the review should not be used to separate children from their mothers, or to speed up removals. You may also want to comment on other changes that are needed to ensure that people seeking asylum get the protection and justice we are all entitled to. We include below a list of demands from the All African Women’s Group including those who went on hunger strike.

Please send emails to and Copy any letter to write to your MP, local councillors, local press and to us.

If you are interested to help in an ongoing way we would like to be in touch.

You can help by:
• Joining one of the daily rotas of volunteers who respond to calls from women in detention and work with the All African Women’s Group on their cases. For people who can’t commit to a regular session there is an opportunity to support particular women in detention/prison, including by visiting and keeping regularly in touch. Legal Action for Women’s (LAW) self-help guide provides more information about the kind of work we do.
• Sending money to LAW’s emergency fund to enable us to top up women’s mobiles, cover the cost of calling women back (which we always do as phoning from Yarl’s Wood is extortionate), and to cover other ongoing costs like volunteer expenses and crisis payments to women seeking asylum who are destitute.
• Campaigning to help get women released, including those now being held in prison. We are consulting with women inside and with their lawyers, where they have one, and will send more details on this soon.
• Please also sign the Mothers Campaign for Family Reunion petition and distribute it to your networks.

We look forward to staying in touch.

Stella Cristel
All African Women’s Group Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Donate to LAW:
• By cheque made payable to Legal Action for Women. Please specify that you are donating to the asylum appeal.
• Online to the asylum appeal administered on our behalf by the charity Women in Dialogue.
• By money transfer into our account: Legal Action for Women, account number - 50728361, sort code - 086001.
If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know.

We demand:

  1. An end to the detention of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people.
  2. An end to the separation of mothers from their children by detention or by destitution – some mothers are detained while children are placed with relatives or in foster care; others are labeled ‘unfit’ by social services because they are destitute and their children are taken from them;
  3. An end to the detention of all people who have served their sentence for criminal offences. No one must be punished twice;
  4. An end to convictions for crimes of poverty being used to revoke immigration status;
  5. An end to violence, abuse and humiliation by immigration staff and escorts, particularly during deportations. Where an allegation of mistreatment or violence is made there should be an immediate independent inquiry and if found guilty, officials must be sacked. Home Office lawyers/officials and immigration judges who are shown to be sexist, racist, hostile or discriminatory in other ways, should also be disciplined/sacked;
  6. The restoration of full legal aid and legal representation at Home Office interviews. Access to independent legal advice;
  7. Abolition of the “fast-track” which denies people the time and resources they need to fully present their case to the authorities;
  8. Provision of NHS health care free at the point of delivery for all people seeking asylum including those in detention;
  9. An end to the apartheid system of benefits, healthcare, housing and education for asylum seekers. The National Asylum Support Service should be scrapped where people are forced to survive on incomes which are less than 60% of benefit levels – already set at subsistence level. No slum housing and dangerous and dirty hostels, dispersal, or vouchers. Children must be allowed to attend school as they used to;
  10. An end to the deliberate policy of destitution for asylum seekers whose cases have been refused;
  11. Official recognition of rape as torture and persecution entitling protection and the right to asylum;
  12. Statutory implementation of the Asylum Gender Guidelines to ensure that women have the opportunity to give a full account of what they have suffered, that decisions on their claims fully consider the traumatic impact of rape and all aspects of whether it would be safe for them to be returned to their country of origin;
  13. Support for the self-help activities of asylum seekers. Funding for voluntary organisations which defend asylum rights, are independent of the government and not involved in providing privatised asylum services or facilitating removals;
  14. An official investigation into what happens to people who are deported;
  15. Whilst detention continues, we demand: a legal limit of one month to the time someone can be detained; good communication with the outside for people detained including mobile phones with good connectivity and no obstacles to sending faxes; on site interpretation facilities; an end to slave labour (detainees earn £3 a day for jobs like serving food and cleaning, whilst Chris Hyman, SERCO’s CEO, earns £3,000 A DAY); nutritional palatable food including food that is appropriate to different cultures; an end to extortion by removal centre shops which charge up to an extra 20p per item even though detainees have little or no money; more female and Black officers (80% of detainees are Black, yet at Yarl’s Wood the vast majority of guards are white). Only female officers should be able to search women’s rooms.



  • New Post: Latest News (18 May 2010), In the Media, end detention, end deportation, Yarl’s Wood
    Tags: end child detention,

The Guardian, Tuesday 18 May 2010

"We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes," says the new coalition

government (Asylum children will be kept out of 'distressing' detention centres, 14 May).

But what about their mothers?


Paediatricians and psychologists have testified to the mental and physical harm caused to

children by detention. But separating them from their mother or primary carer is even

worse; it may cause "insecurity, depression and anxiety" which lasts throughout life.

The recent six-week hunger strike by women in Yarl's Wood removal centre brought to

public attention that many women detained inside are mothers whose children were taken

by social services or other family members. Some face deportation and permanent

separation, often after years of raising a family in the UK.


One mother tries to shield her seven-year-old daughter from the painful truth by telling

her that she's "working away from home". She and many others speak constantly of their

anguish at being unable to care for their children, many of whom may already be

traumatised by violence in their home country, and experience depression, bed-wetting

and fear.


An estimated 1.5 million youngsters suffer abuse each year in the United Kingdom, many

of them while in care. This horrifying reality must not be added to by separating yet more

children from the mothers who love them and whom they love.


Ending the detention of children has to mean ending the detention of families.


Maria Ziwa, All African Women's Group

Cristel Amiss, Black Women's Rape Action Project

Oliver James, Clinical child psychologist

Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women

Frances Swaine, Leigh Day and Co

Professor Sheila Kitzinger

John McDonnell, MP

Dr Jonathan Fluxman

Kristina Brandemo, Women Against Rape

Clare Sambrook, End Child Detention Now

Rev Paul Nicolson, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

Additional; signatures from Public Meeting: Women’s Hunger Strike –

Louder than Words, Tuesday 29 June, House of Commons

Paul Jeffcoate, Fisher Meredith Solicitors

Anna T, Global Women’s Strike

Solveig Francis, International Women Count Network

Jim Curran, Irish Civil Rights Association

Emma Jones, Leigh Day & Co. Solicitors

Dr Frank Arnold, Medical Justice

Jeremy Corbyn, MP

Lily Barson, No Borders, London

Estelle Hart, NUS & two others

Elly Badcock, NUS Women’s Committee (Bisexual Rep.)

Natalie Hepperstall, NUS Women’s Committee (Women with Caring Responsibilities Rep.)

Cherie Lyster, NUS Women’s Committee & two others

Sophia James, NUS National Equalities Council

Portia Roelofs, Oxford University Student Union Women’s Campaign

Michael Kalmanovitz, Payday Men’s Network

Khalid Omar, S.O.A.S

Kim Sparrow, Single Mother’s Self Defence

Henry Wood, Sutovic & Hartigan solicitors

Deesha Chandra, The Testimony project

Dr Felicity de Zulueta, Traumatic Stress Service Clinic

Didi Rossi, Wages Due Lesbians

Claire Glasman. Winvisible, women with visible & invisible disabilities

Vinjiswa Ngaobongwana, Women Radio Group

and 45 individuals