Today the Court of Appeal ruled that the government must immediately suspend the discredited Detained Fast Track. Hunger strikes and other protests in detention and grassroots campaigning outside have forced the courts to take this step to stop a most blatant injustice against asylum seekers. The DFT was always an inhuman and discriminatory system which left no time for detainees to gather evidence of the persecution they suffered. It aimed to asylum seekers removed as possible regardless of the validity of their claim and the risk to their lives. This court ruling must be implemented without any delay.
Over 70% of women who contact us from detention are victims of rape, domestic and other violence, they have witnessed atrocities committed against their children and other loved ones, and are so traumatised that they are often unable to speak about what they have been through. In addition, they fear being disbelieved and stigmatised. Without access to lawyers and supporters they are at great risk of being deported back to the torture they fled. We know women who were removed and were raped on arrival, others have disappeared and may be dead.
Following the momentous news we immediately called Lucy Ndungu who has been on the DTF for seven months inside Yarl’s Wood. She is a “jailhouse lawyer” who has helped other women to win their release using Legal Action for Women’s Self Help Guide for Asylum Seekers.
Ms Ndungu said: “Imagine being here when my case is about being raped and other torture, in addition to human trafficking. . . All of us are uplifted that the court has ruled in our favour — but we have had enough. The victory will remain bittersweet until all the detainees on DFT are released and all the deportations stopped.”
Rosie from All African Women’s Group was equally delighted. Speaking for many former ex-detainee members she said: “Now we want compensation for the traumatic experiences women have suffered inside Yarl’s Wood, where everyone knows that the guards are racist brutes who have raped and abused women.”
Our recent dossier documenting a decade of rape and sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood IRC produced with women Women Against Rape, was emailed to every MP on the morning of our Speak Out and Protest in Parliament Square on 15 June. It brings together direct accounts we received from detainees, with research and media coverage. The protest was a massive success as asylum seekers took turns at the mic, backed by many organisations. A number of SNP and some Labour MPs who have always opposed detention, such as John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, who is standing for the leadership of the Labour Party, also spoke.
Governments around the world, starting with the UK, seem prepared to let many more thousands of people fleeing war and devastation drown or be killed. With the excuse of stopping the “smugglers”, they are openly discussing bombing the boats to prevent people reaching safety. Tens of thousands of people, including women and children, are risking their lives to escape war and devastation. How many will die if their escape routes are cut? It is past time that MPs spoke up, inside and outside of Parliament, about the UK’s responsibility for this situation, and against the inhuman, punitive and illegal measures that successive governments have taken to deflect blame for their policies unto the victims.
Regardless of what the government and some of the media say, the court of public opinion is rapidly siding with immigrants and refugees. Stop the fast track. Close Yarl’s Wood and all detention centres now.
The Court of Appeal has just suspended the Detained Fast track!
Close detention centres now. Read the new Dossier documenting a decade of rape and sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood.