UK: Hunger striking detainees attacked by guards

Posted by admin on Jun 19th, 2009

Friday 19th June 2009,

A mass hunger strike by families detained at Yarl’s Wood refugee detention centre in Bedfordshire has been met with violent assaults on men, women and children by security guards working for Serco – who manage the prison on behalf of the UK Border Agency. The detainees started the hunger strike on Monday and since Tuesday prison managers have stopped detainees from speaking to visitors and reporters, and denied them internet access.

Having collectively prevented the deportation of a family on Tuesday, all the detained families left their rooms to stage a sit-in in the corridors on Wednesday. At about 4pm, between 30 and 40 Serco goons waded in, using excessive force, to remove all men involved in the protest, separating them from the women and children. Two women, who had their clothes ripped off, were also violently removed. In the struggle, one of the women’s child, aged 19 months, fell from her back and was stepped on by a guard, and her husband was also injured. A guard was reportedly seen filming one of the semi-naked women. Another detainee who had spoken to the press and put out a statement calling for support for the hunger strike was also violently assaulted. Doctors have not been allowed access to examine the casualties, some of which are reportedly severely injured.

One of the women detainees, who had been snatched from Newcastle on Friday, reported “I have never ever seen such violence. They were beating the men like they were animals. They say if we dare to go back into the corridor they will spray us all over [with pepper spray]. We need your help from outside. We don’t have any rights in here. We need your support from outside.”

By the end of Wednesday, at least two men, two women and two children had been removed from the wing and at the time of writing their whereabouts is still unknown.

Shamelessly, the UK Border Agency have issued a press release saying “Officers have separated a small number of detainees from the general population at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. This was conducted by staff trained in conflict resolution… This separation was conducted with the utmost sensitivity and there have been no injuries to detainees.” These lies were echoed by mainstream media reports.

Many Yarl’s Wood detainees, including pregnant women, have medical conditions but don’t receive proper medical attention, whilst many children are ill and suffer anxiety, crying and screaming all night.

A lively demo with street theatre in solidarity with the hunger strikers and against immigration prisons was held outside outside Government Offices North East in Newcastle on Wednesday with another one planned for Saturday. A solidarity protest called for by No Borders London will be held today (19th) outside Serco’s London offices at 22 Hand Court, Holborn, WC1V 6JF.

* See

* Also last Friday (12th), detainees rioted and lit a fire at the new Brook House detention centre at Gatwick Airport (See SchNEWS 669).

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