Yarl’s Wood, the notoriously infamous immigration detention center is in the news again. The building located in Bedfordshire, is an Immigration Removal Centre here illegal immigrants are held until they can be deported. Now, it has come into the limelight due to the recent death of a forty year old woman, who was awaiting deportation. The woman, Christine Case, was an illegal immigrant from Jamaica. She succumbed to a heart attack after the detention center provided her with only paracetamol to help treat it! The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire had to swiftly albeit reluctantly start an urgent investigation to help clarify the matter. Yarl’s Wood has been dogged by controversy ever since it opened. Unlike a detention center which should hold individuals only for a maximum of three days, nearly all the detainees have been detained for weeks, with more than half of them being detained for more than three months. Yarl’s Wood is more like a prison than a detention center. The detention center run by Serco has had a lot of problems. The quality of food provided is extremely poor and there are extreme gaps in the health care provisions. These are not new facts they have been common knowledge since as early as 2003. The detention center primarily holds women and their underage children, if any.
The kind of treatment meted out to the women is inhumane. The horrors inside the detention prison seem right out of a third world country. There is rampant racism. Extreme abuse of power and use of excessive force by the guards is an everyday thing. The really sad fact is that there have been a large number of hunger strikes to protest the terrible conditions at Yarl’s Wood, all to no avail. Christine Case’s story is a case in point. The biggest shocker is that according to a 2006 report by Legal Action for Women group, seventy percent of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood had reported rape! This horrible crime is perpetrated by the guards against whom the women are completely powerless. Legal Action for Women publishes and distributes self – help guides for the women of Yarl’s Wood to educate them about their rights. However, the guards always confiscate these guides to completely cripple the women. Many women are afraid to approach authorities to report the abuse they face to authorities for fear of it affecting their cases.
Among the prominent people who have stayed at Yarl’s Wood is the celebrated playwright Lydia Besong. She spoke about her experience at Yarl’s Wood, likening it to political imprisonment she had to undergo in her own country, Cameroon in West Africa. To be able to draw a parallel between an African prison and an immigrant removal center speaks volumes about Yarl’s Wood. The fact remains that detention centers like Yarl’s Wood are extremely unnecessary. A person’s immigration case can easily be processed while he or she lives at home, amongst friends and family. Yashika Bageerathi was also held here. She is to be deported tonight.