Saturday, 4 April 2015

Locking up women seeking asylum

Nothing shouts female emancipation louder than locking away persecuted women the moment they set foot on British soil.

This is what we do, in the UK.

Yarl's Wood detention centre

Imagine arriving in Britain for the first time in your life. You’ve travelled alone. Before this you’d never left your own country. But you been beaten/abused/raped, and fear for your life, all because you spoke out. You clung to the idea that you would be safe when you reached the UK, all through that terrifying journey. You just have to get to passport control and you will be there and safe.

You arrive and are taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. And there your dreams of freedom without fear evaporate. You may no longer live in fear, but you’re imprisoned. This is just a temporary stop, but the first night turns into the second night, which turns into the third week, into the fourth month. And so on.

Women are detained at Yarl's Wood for months on end while the authorities check out whether their claims for asylum are legitimate and decided what to do with them. 

There are all kinds of allegations about the mistreatment of women at Yarl’s Wood. Women regularly self-harm and are placed on suicide watch. I wonder why? Possibly because they’ve been through hell only to find themselves not in the promised land but someone else’s nightmare.

I‘ve been lobbying my MP about this. Apparently one of the reason women’s are detained at Yarl's Wood is to 'ensure their health and wellbeing is safeguarded at all times'. In what sense is driving women to self-harm safeguarding their health and wellbeing?

There's a parliamentary review due around these issues. I hope it leads to some changes, although I'm sceptical. Either way, in the months before this is completed, women who are not only innocent  but extremely vulnerable will continue to be locked up for months at a time. 

Women (and men) who arrive in this country in fear should be treated with care and compassion, not thrown into what is essentially a jail.

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