Pop Quiz: Which group of people do we reserve indefinite detention for in the UK?
*drum roll* It’s migrants. Specifically, those who cannot be deported to their home countries. As the charity Detention Action puts it:
“Across Europe, migrants are wrongly detained when they cannot return to their countries of origin. Only the UK detains them indefinitely for years. 20 unreturnable migrants tell their stories of detention.”
Think about it. Your life is suspended and you have no idea when you will again be free.
It’s a cruel irony that many of those detained here like criminals are actually people fleeing persecution. Yesterday, the charity Women for Refugee Women, which has repeatedly flagged the mistreatment of female asylum-seekers detained at Yarl’s Wood, released a new report, I Am Human, detailing the abuse suffered by a number of women at the hands of male guards at the centre. Often these women are already victims of sexual abuse.
From the Guardian coverage of the report:
“Women detained in the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre are routinely humiliated by male staff who monitor them while they are dressing, showering and using the toilet, or are naked in their rooms…”
Unsurprisingly, a number of the women interviewed were on suicide watch at some point during their time at Yarl’s Wood. Serco, which has the contract to run the centre, had its contract renewed for another eight years despite multiple allegations of sexual assaults on detainees by staff.
According to the Guardian:
“In June 2014, the centre’s management said 31 allegations of sexual contact had been investigated and a number of staff were dismissed.”
I actually don’t have a pithy ending to this post. I will just point out that while the government is happy to hobnob with Angelina Jolie and talk about violence against women, it refused the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, access to Yarl’s Wood to investigate these allegations when she visited last year.
The government got a lot of positive press for the conference with Jolie. I’m sure a lot of good came out of it. But if you’re judged by the company you keep, it should speak volumes that the Special Rapporteur has drawn parallels between the UK’s behaviour on Yarl’s Wood and Bangladesh’s refusal to let her inspect a notorious refugee camp:
“If you look at my Bangladeshi report, I was denied entry to a refugee camp and I have made a note in my report, in the same way I will put in the UK report that I was denied entry to Yarl’s Wood.”