Activists campaigning to close the Yarl’s Wood detention centre surrounded the building and created a wall of noise around the controversial site.
Women detained inside, who are held there before deportation, waved from the windows on Saturday afternoon as hundreds of protesters kicked the 20ft fence, banged pans and chanted through mobile PA systems.
The detainees showed their support through narrow, mirrored glass windows that can only be cracked opened by two or three inches.
The protest was organised by the Movement for Justice who are calling for the Bedfordshire centre to be shut down with immediate effect.
The protestors claim that the centre is emblematic of the scapegoating of migrants which they claim has been prevalent since the UK voted to leave the EU in June. They are also calling for an end to mass deportations through the use of charter flights.
Crowds fell silent at 2.20pm to hear women speaking through mobile phones from inside the centre.
One woman said how Serco, the private contractors who manage Yarl’s Wood on behalf of the Home Office, had for the first time blocked the corridors between wings to stop detainees from the other side of the centre from coming to see the demonstration.
Another woman added: We are locked in, officers standing by the door.In other rooms detention officers were stopping detainees from standing by the windows, she said.
We wanted to put a cloth out [of the window]. They told us to take it off, the detainee added.
Karen Doyle, Movement for Justice national organiser, said the demonstration aimed to strengthen and empower the women inside.
It has been the women’s determination to speak the truth about sexual abuse and harassment that has seen the secretive world of abuse behind the walls of Yarl’s Wood exposed. It has been the women’s continued defence of each other, gathering together in rooms, that has stopped unjust deportations and it has been the women’s insistence on never giving up, on always exposing the truth of their experience that has meant Yarl’s Wood is now recognised as a ‘national concern’, a blot on the UK’s stated commitment to women’s rights, she said.
This is an issue for anyone who care’s about women’s rights, human rights, justice and equality. The UK’s commitment to human rights is a lie as long as places like Yarl’s Wood exist.
The centre in Bedfordshire holds 410 people, mostly women and adult families, who are due to be deported from the UK. Since opening in 2001, it has been mired in scandal and been the subject of scrutiny by human rights campaigners.
A report by the National Audit Office published in July revealed that cost-cutting measures imposed on the privately run facility will see staff axed and replaced with self-service kiosks.
The NAO report stated: While the move to self-service in the residential services contract reduced demands on staff time, Serco’s reduction of staff meant there were insufficient operational and management staff. The contract envisaged freeing up staff time by moving to a ‘self-service’ model where, for example, residents send their own faxes and book their own visits.
It also emerged earlier this year that women detained in the centre reported six allegations of sexual assault against staff over a three-year period. The attacks were alleged to have taken place between 2013 and 2015.
The Home Office minister at the time, James Brokenshire, said that all allegations had been investigated but the Home Office and Bedfordshire police said they could not provide details of the outcome of the investigations.
Both the Home Office and Bedfordshire police said they could not provide details of the outcome of the investigations, but Brokenshire said all allegations were investigated.
News Source TheGuardianNews