Yarl’s Wood hunger strike shines a spotlight on the shameful way the UK runs its immigration centres

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120 detainees refuse food in protest

The hunger strike of 120 detainees at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre has revived the debate on indefinite detention. Formally defined by the Home Office as an “administrative practice for the purpose of immigration status”, I think it actually disguises a clear violation of fundamental human rights.

The group of female protesters, many of whom are survivors of torture and sexual or gender-based violence, have been refusing food since 26 February. This is in protest against Home Office policies on indefinite detention, the detainment of survivors of torture and the detainment of people who entered the UK as children. A Zimbabwean woman involved in the strike said:

“We are not criminals, and yet we are held indefinitely in an institution that is, for all intent, a prison.”

The principle of immigration detention is enshrined in the Immigration Act 1971, it conferring the government powers to detain people for immigration control while they wait for permission to enter the UK (or before they are deported). Detention should be lawfully exercised only if there is a realistic prospect of removal within a reasonable time.

The power to detain is also subject to the ‘Hardial Singh Principles’, established in the case of R (Hardial Singh) v Governor of Durham Prison, which stress that if before the expiry of the reasonable period, it becomes apparent that the Secretary of State will not be able to effect deportation (or removal) within that reasonable period, she should not seek to exercise the power of detention. The concept of reasonable time, however, is not further explained, leaving the UK as the only European country with no time limit on detention.

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Criticism on the practice of indefinite detention and the inhumane treatment of immigrants in removal centres is nothing new.

In an interview for Women for Refugee Women in 2017, Mariam, an East African woman who left her country to escape a life of sexual and physical abuse, was one of the first detainees to raise her voice against the injust conditions at Yarl’s Wood. Describing it as “a secret and torturing place”, she claimed:

“The way the Home Office treated me was awful. They didn’t believe me when I first told them what had happened to me. It just felt like there was no respect for me as a human being at all.”

Indefinite detention and immigrants’ degrading living conditions has also been the subject of a report published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons that acknowledged an increasing number of women were being detained despite professional evidence that they were victims of rape, torture and trafficking.

With Britain having openly declared its mission to make the country a hostile environment for illegal immigration it comes as no surprise that, despite wide media coverage, government institutions have been reluctant to reform the system. However, Caroline Nokes MP’s threat to accelerate deportation for all those involved in the strike seems to have brought the matter to a turning point, with Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary, and Caroline Spelman, former Tory Environment Secretary, telling The Independent they want to change the law.

Two MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party have signed a parliamentary motion calling for “a 28-day time limit and greater use of community-based alternatives”. Labour has joined the Liberal Democrats in calling for change. Afzal Khan, the party’s shadow immigration minister, said indefinite detention was “not only cruel, but costs hundreds of millions of pounds”. What is regarded as the de facto imprisonment of people without a legal judgment is a contravention of the very foundation of English law enshrined in the Magna Carta.

Costanza Maccari is a final-year law with criminology student at London South Bank University. Her interests include politics, international affairs, national security and human rights.

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0 net immigration.

Country’s full.

Hence Brexit.

Not Amused

Detaining people is part of due process and due process is part of being a civilised society worth migrating to.

There is a concerted effort on behalf of some to use identity politics to undermine due process. But our values are what make us ‘us’.


Ok, so when I was completing my training contract, I had to visit detainees and what I saw completely contradicts this article. I agree some people may be ‘survivors of torture and sexual or gender-based violence’, but most, from my experience were laying it on thick, wanted to stay in the UK. Most of the people at Yarlswood are there because they have failed to sign on at regular intervals at a local UKBA office and therefore are deemed a risk. It isn’t a pleasant situation to be waiting so long for the UKBA to make a decision, however, it’s probably better than these people claim to have experienced.


“many of whom ***claim to be*** survivors of torture and sexual or gender-based violence”

There, fixed it for you.


“Her interests include politics, international affairs, national security and human rights.”

Wow, some heavy hobbies there. I like going to the gym and seeing friends.


This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


They are only on a hunger strike because English food is horrendous.


It’s a shame this. Check out the guardian link.

X from Kenya seeks asylum on the grounds of her sexuality.

It is refused at a given point in time.

Process begins for repatriation.

X does not cooperate with staff because there are avenues of appeal left.

She is detained in solitary for longer than the 24 hours permitted without sos approval. Twice this happens over a couple of months I think.

28 hours solitary. Not disputed that solitary is a shit hole.

X’s Lawyer wins case against sos.

By this time it seems x is housed. She now has a claim for depression and ptsd against the sos, she is afraid to leave ” the house.”

Sos line is we cannot have this kind of reaction to delay or override a deportation ruling, that is Why she fought the lawyer.

Hunger strike coincides with escalation of Diane abbot and shami chakrabati being refused visiting rights by sos on the grounds that they are not visiting an individual and living conditions are monitored by organisations.

Torture. Shut it down. Use the community not a prison style building, is the cry against the sos.

Tories say we cannot be bullied into overriding decisions like this, that is why, with some medical approval from consultees e.g. nhs (but some disapproval) we have issued letters saying hunger strikers repatriation will be expedited.

It is a mess. Both sides are prone to lie to win. It is forbidden by Pope pius 12 to implement Christianity through politics, if I am not mistaken, which could reverse actions and sentiments from the top to bottom of the piece.

The student author of the article claims outrage, rather than “desperate world, what do we do ? I am only 20, why did y’all settle for this system of things ?”

Lc censor the contrast of the outrage by Labour here with the Telford girls lack of voice and cover up for 17 years plus, even though the post had 7 votes up and 1 down.

I would critique to the author that many politicians cannot earn a professional living. They got lucky with an mp selection process and earn far in excess of what their skill would command outside the bubble of westminster. Consider making sure that your written voice is professional. If you qualify you will either have to work for the civil service or you will have to draft legal documents and anticipate counter arguments when advising people like X. – unless you get lucky with an mp selection process.

The political situation is far more tragic than you make out and, for me, you are mimicking the narrative of adults who have nowhere near the breadth of understanding or the policy visions to make the world better.

It would be wiser to look into real players across the piece. In the usual corners try Yasser Arafat, Mohandas Gandhi and John Lennon. These will pull your narrative up and their better vision will stir your soul.

I give a nod to one of my tutors who took the trouble and risk to say to me in a tutorial…I would find a better hero than Lord Denning, if I were you.


“X from Kenya seeks asylum on the grounds of her sexuality.”

You mean homosexuality is not tolerated in Kenya?

But I thought these places where spilling over with doctors, architects and scientists just chomping at the bit to emigrate here and rejuvenate our stale, white-skinned populations and show us a better way to manage our civilisation.

I thought these people were morally and ethically *better than us* in every conceivable way…


Trumpy, get with the Pope Pius 12 narrative. Arguments that will run the course and then win are needed. Here you hit turbulence and censorship as soon as the starting pistol fires.

It is easier to interact with fellow humans on a reverse Pius 12 narrative. This is what is required for change. Otherwise it is just one populist camp against another and see whose population amounts to 55%.

People’s souls need to be saved on all sides 😀


If for every 100 times that Cuckold. Sympathiser starts bloviating or the proprietors of this site come down with the ban hammer, one law student is stirred by populist ideas, my job is done.

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Aw, crying are we little boy? Trust me the only cuckold around here is your dad after what I did to your mum last night


LOL. Implying you are heterosexual, and also implying having done anything to my mum, or to any other woman, last night, or indeed at any other time, that didn’t involve taking a strap-on from an obese domme with blue hair, tattoos and a Tumblr account.


Look at the bigger picture, it’s not “one law student stirred by populist ideas”. Apparently it’s the truth.


Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

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