(on corner of Horseferry rd. Westminster or Victoria tube. Buses: 88, 507, 148 & walk down Great Smith St to Marsham St.)
To meet and walk there together meet by Big Ben at 12.30pm
Women detainees in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre are organising to fight for their freedom, demand their fundamental rights and provide support for each other. They have established a Movement for Justice group in the Centre that was 40 strong by early October - lesbian and straight, women escaping anti-gay persecution, human trafficking, sexual abuse and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and persecution as women political activists. The group unites women from every part of Africa, from the Caribbean, the Arab world, Iran, India and Pakistan - Christian, Muslim and of no religion. Its first victory has been to challenge the divide-and-rule tactics relied on by the racist detention system.
The Yarl's Wood women's struggle for justice escalated dramatically in the past week as a result of the brutal mistreatment of one of their number - Christine Nankya, a 28-year old asylum seeker from Uganda and a member of the Movement for Justice group. On Monday morning, 15 October, she was taken from her room in an attempt to put her on a deportation flight. She was screaming and shouting in terror and struggling to resist removal. She was dragged naked across the floor by 5 or 6 guards, naked apart from a blanket hastily thrown over her.
Christine had escaped a life of abuse and rape by her own father and in Britain she has lived homeless and was taken into detention in April this year. She was on suicide watch in Yarl's Wood. She had taken a large overdose of pills before a previous deportation attempt. The angry and outraged women of Yarl's Wood held a 120-strong mass meeting in the dining hall Monday lunchtime. They voted unanimously to support the demands of the Movement for Justice group and demand Christine's return. This was a huge step forward in the fight against the unjust immigration system.
Thanks to her own and her fellow-detainees fight Christine was not deported. After two other detention centres refused to take her she was returned to Yarl's Wood on Tuesday morning to the enormous joy of all the women.
The next day 100 women gathered in the dining hall again when the Movement for Justice held an anti-detention demonstration at Lunar House, the UKBA HQ in Croydon. Linked by speakerphone they enthusiastically joined in the demonstrators - "Yarl's Wood Women - Free Them Now!", "UKBA - Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay!"
The UKBA & the Serco management at Yarl's Wood was terrified by the women's proud, confident assertion of their strength. They have spent the last three days trying to instill a renewed climate of fear, with repeated lock-downs and harassment. Over Thursday and Friday they gave a large number of women directions for deportation flights in the next few weeks and handing out asylum refusals - bringing forward planned actions to maximise their impact.
Seven women who have played a leading role in the fight for justice have been seized and isolated and most of them have been moved out of Yarl's Wood and dispersed to prisons. Six of the women were asked to attend a meeting to discuss their demands on Thursday afternoon. They were taken to a room, but there was no meeting. They were locked in, beaten, handcuffed and their phones taken and switched off. Five have been removed. On Friday morning a Pakistani Muslim woman who had translated the proceedings of the Monday & Wednesday meeting into Hindi & Urdu for other Asian women was asked to go to a meeting 'to discuss the demands' and has not been seen since.
The women in the Yarl's Wood Movement for Justice group are maintaining their organisation, continuing their commitment to the demands of the mass meeting, speaking to reporters and gathering evidence of the continuing injustice.
It is incumbent on all who stand for women's right to live free from abuse, and for the dignity and humanity of all, including all who live here, whether with or without citizenship, to take action now. Help get this news out, tell everyone you know, call on your MP, the press, and organisations, that all the women involved in standing up for their rights have a right to do so, NO RETALIATION, withdraw all tickets, take them off Fast Track as there is no fair hearing under these circumstances.
The women who've been taken...
Aderonke Apata - Nigerian - held in isolation unit in Yarl's Wood
Sarah Najjuma - Ugandan - held in Holloway Prison, London
Mya Fore - Zimbabwean - held in Perborough Prison
Abala Bello - Nigerian - whereabouts unknown
Eunice Williams - Jamaican - whereabouts unknown
Sophine Barnet - Jamaican - whereabouts unknown
Shazia Aslam - Pakistani - whereabouts unknown
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * We need to get word about what is happening in Yarl's Wood far and wide: if you write a blog, write for a student/local newspaper, take part in community or other radio station- we need you to write about this. We can put you in touch with some of the women of Yarls Wood to get direct quotes. We need people to call the detention centre, MP's, press - anything to bring to light this injustice. Please call Tony on 07587693316, Karen on 07535637147 or Antonia on 07930302263 if you think there is something you can do.