PRESS RELEASE: MFJ report on the treatment of cross Channel refugees in repurposed Yarl’s Wood highlights lack of access to legal advice and failure to identify victims of trafficking and torture

First insight into new regime in Yarl’s Wood detention centre since its conversion into a short term holding facility for cross channel refugees. Report highlights lack of access to legal advice and failure to identify victims of trafficking and torture.

Since August 2020 there have been no more women detained in Yarl’s Wood and the Home Office confirmed that its small short term holding facility was expanded to process cross channel refugees[1].

The report we release today is the first public insight into the new regime and is the result of four weeks of discussions with 20 refugees who were detained in Yarl’s Wood during September 2020.  

Over half of those we spoke to had been victims of torture or trafficking; many had been enslaved in Libya and subject to brutal torture, forced labour and rape. They spent 5-7 days in Yarl’s Wood[2].

During this time, no one was provided with access to a solicitor; the Detention Duty Advice Scheme (DDAS) was not functioning. Some were given a list of numbers after several days but lack of phone credit and language difficulties meant it was impossible for them to secure representation.

People are moved to other accommodation with no representation, no support, and in many cases with no phones. They are dispersed to areas where charities are overstretched and where legal aid immigration solicitors either have no capacity or are few and far between. Language difficulties and lack of phone or phone credit makes it impossible for many to find the legal advice, medical help and support they need.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Home Office have been vocally critical of ‘last minute legal claims’ which ‘frustrate’ removals; this report reveals the truth, that people are denied legal advice at an early stage and victims of trafficking are not being identified. For these refugees a ‘last minute claim,’ when they are taken to Brook House and given notice of a flight, is the only way to stop what would be an unlawful removal.

“The UK’s stated commitment to Human Rights is being trampled on by Priti Patel, the UK Home Office and this government. They have designed a Dover to Deportation pipeline, at every stage frustrating refugees’ ability to get the legal advice, care and support they need. Yarl’s Wood is but one link in that pipeline, but it is a crucial one. Had those asylum seekers been able to access legal representation at the earliest opportunity they would not have been subject to the further torture of detention and threat of removal, which has led to so many suicide attempts in Brook House[3]. Karen Doyle (MFJ National Organiser)

Victims of trafficking and torture, people with families here, people with serious health conditions and mental health difficulties are being taken from their accommodation and thrown into Brook House IRC for removal on charter flights with just five days notice[4]. When lawyers take on these cases at short notice and help their clients to access the protections available to them in law they are branded as ‘lefty lawyers’, akin to traffickers, and vilified simply for doing their job.

“This government is pursuing a relentless and dishonest campaign to vilify refugees and those who support and represent them. It has an incited an epidemic of race hatred and attacks, like the recent attempt to murder an immigration lawyer[5] and fascists targeting places where refugees are being housed. We will fight together with refugees and immigrants to end the super-charged Hostile Environment of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Antonia Bright (MFJ Chair)

Yarls-Wood-report2


[1] BBC News (Look East) Report 18/08/2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-53810521

[2] 7 days is the maximum someone can be detained in a Short Term Holding Facility

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/12/asylum-seeker-removal-flight-go-ahead-despite-last-minute-court-action

[4] https://corporatewatch.org/cast-away-the-uks-rushed-charter-flights-to-deport-channel-crossers/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/10/lawyers-claim-knife-attack-at-law-firm-was-inspired-by-priti-patels-rhetoric

Yarl’s Wood detainees resist Nigeria/Ghana mass deportation charter flight – unlawful deportation prevented

Free AG NOW. Amnesty for ALL immigrants – and shut down ALL detention centres. Stop mass deportation charter flights. Build the independent, integrated movement.

In Yarl’s Wood detention centre new battles in the fight for women’s rights and immigrant rights have been opening up, with women taking all means necessary, encouraged and more confident having seen the government’s hostile environment immigration policy exposed and vulnerable, and having been part of the struggles that made it vulnerable through months of collective action inside Yarl’s Wood.

In Yarl’s Wood on Wednesday 30 May 2018, women gathered in Dove unit to defend Nigerian and Ghanaian women whom they knew to be the latest targets for a mass deportation charter flight. This action to stop deportations took place in the context of the Government’s wider, self-inflicted crisis over its anti-immigrant policies. It takes the fight to end detention and the whole hostile environment to a higher level and asserts the importance of immigrant leadership in this fight.

Continue reading “Yarl’s Wood detainees resist Nigeria/Ghana mass deportation charter flight – unlawful deportation prevented”

Meet Yarl’s Wood detainees the Home Office plans to deport on Wed 30 May by charter flight #StopCharterFlights

These are stories of the 15 people we know of in Yarl’s Wood who are at risk of being on Wednesday’s charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana. They include people who have lived in the UK for 17, 15, 14, 13 and 12 years, a gay woman who has been here since she was 12 years old, two couples, several victims of FGM, domestic violence, rape and torture, women who are married or partners with British Citizens and EEA nationals, people who are carers, people who have no one left in Nigeria and people ranging in age from 20’s to 50’s.

1. FA: I have lived in UK since Feb 2006, 17 years. I am a victim of domestic violence, FGM and suffering from high blood pressure which is classified by the Home Office as adult risk level 2. I have been detained in Yarl’s Wood for 7 months. When I first came to the UK with was with my previous husband (a British Citizen) on a spousal visa, I suffered from domestic violence for years, which was deeply traumatic, and when that relationship broke down it meant my right to stay broke as well. I now have a loving partner with EEA citizenship, we have been together for 6 years and living together for 3 but no matter what evidence we submit we are treated as liars. My only sister lives in the UK, we are very close and I love my young nephew very much, I would be devastated to leave them and my partner. We are all treated as liars, no matter what we say, the Home Office is just looking to meet its targets, it is wrong.

Continue reading “Meet Yarl’s Wood detainees the Home Office plans to deport on Wed 30 May by charter flight #StopCharterFlights”

Yarl’s Wood detainees call on Yvette Cooper MP and Home Office Affairs Select Committee to #ReturnToYarlsWood

Yesterday Yvette Cooper and members of the Home Affairs Select Committee paid a surprise visit to Yarl’s Wood, above is the account of that visit by Yarl’s Wood detainees and a call on Cooper and the Committee to return to Yarl’s Wood. Yesterday evening we emailed the petition and all 102 signatures to Yvette Cooper and the Home Affairs Select Committee with the following email…

Dear Yvette Cooper and Committee,

Attached is a petition written by detainees in Yarl’s Wood, in just over two hours today following your visit they managed to collect 102 detainee signatures and fax this to us. It tells their account of how they were lied to about your visit, lied to by promises that they would get to speak to you and locked up so they could not approach you. They are furious at how they have been treated today and want you to return to the centre to hear from them.

Yarl’s Wood detainees have been avidly following every session of the Detention Inquiry that is televised on Parliament TV, collectively they have so much knowledge and experience that could and should be added to that inquiry. Not only individual stories of abuse and how they’ve been set up to fail by this system of detention but also how they have been organising, coming together and fighting back against their unjust detention and brutal deportations. The expertise and contribution that current detainees can make to the Detention Inquiry cannot be matched by any contribution from outside detention centres.

Continue reading “Yarl’s Wood detainees call on Yvette Cooper MP and Home Office Affairs Select Committee to #ReturnToYarlsWood”