Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
Yarl’s Wood Detainee Speaks Out Over Abuse
Speakers from ‘Movement for Justice’ spoke about the Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre at a Women’s Association meeting on Tuesday 1st December.
Both male and female members of the student body joined the meeting to listen to Antonia Bright and Maimuna (who has asked to only be named with her first name) speak on the deplorable situation of detainees.
Yarl’s Wood has been the at the center of controversy of the treatment of immigrants by the UK government after a report found the centre is 'failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable women held.' The report was carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons during April and May of this year and published in August. The Inspectorate report 'did not find evidence of widespread abuse in the centre' but concluded that 'The vulnerability of the women held, the closed nature of the institution and the power imbalance between the staff and detainees – common to any prison – made individual instances an ever-present risk'.
Bright, a national organizer for the group, began the talk at the University by addressing increasing racism and anti-immigration bigotry in UK detention policy. Bright said that detainment 'hangs like a shadow', alleging that reasons for detention are not made clear, and can be used as a threat. The most common justification is to stop migrants from absconding although there is no evidence to suggest detainment is a necessary procedure.
Bright continued by alleging that the government’s immigration policy was designed to create hostility. She told students that the proposal to create a ‘hostile environment’ was originally put forward by Theresa May in 2013 and the Immigration Act was eventually passed in May 2014.
“'...she retold stories of abuse, one of which was the rape and impregnation of one of the detained women by a guard...'
Yarl's Wood holds more than 350 detainees, mainly single women, who are waiting for their immigration status to be resolved. Maimuna was one of these women. She was detained in Yarl’s Wood for 5 months but was not aware this would be the case, instead believing she would be in Yarl’s Wood for 1 day maximum. Relating her own personal account, she retold stories of abuse, one of which was the rape and impregnation of one of the detained women by a guard. The perpetrator was not punished, but the woman was deported. 'They put people in that centre just to torture you,' Muamuna said, 'they don’t care if you are sick; they only care about deporting you.'
The talk was not all negative, however. The guest speakers told the audience of future action planned to publicise the case of Yarl’s Wood through protests at the detention centre. Postcards were also handed out to write words of support for women at Yarl’s Wood.