Why I will be refusing food on International Women’s Day

On International Women's Day, on 8 March, hundreds of friends and supporters of people incarcerated at Yarl´s Wood Immigration Detention Centre will go without  food to draw attention to the struggle of the people detained there, many of whom have been on hunger strike. One of the freedom fasters explains why.

March 7, 2018
5 min read

Photo: Wasi Daniju / Flickr.

On International Women’s Day, on 8 March, hundreds of friends and supporters of people incarcerated at Yarl´s Wood Immigration Detention Centre will go without  food to draw attention to the struggle of the people detained there, many of whom have been on hunger strike. One of the freedom fasters explains why.

On the 8th March, International Women’s Day, I will also be joining a 24 hour freedom fast alongside #hungerforfreedom strikers at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre, who are being threatened by our government for taking part in a nonviolent protest against their detention conditions. It will be difficult. But nothing compared to long, drawn-out hunger strikes of the incarcerated women. After a few days, the body begins to cannibalise itself. Long-term hunger strikers risk their health and their lives. But they’re facing down a system of extreme cruelty and dehumanisation which already puts their lives at risk.

On International Women’s day, I will also be interviewing enthusiastic young people who want to dedicate a year to volunteering. The two things are connected. Many of those young volunteers will be working directly with people made destitute by our failing asylum and immigration system and forced to access emergency support – sleeping bags, toiletries, food – because they have nowhere to sleep but on the street. They will be supporting people to find lost relatives and rebuild their lives in an unfamiliar country. No-one leaves their home, family and country behind for no reason.
People are sometimes refused permission to stay in Britain on the basis of ridiculous details and on the whim of a case officer. The Home Office regularly flouts legal due process, trying to forcibly remove people from the country whilst their trials and hearings are still underway. The system is broken and has to change. Migrants deserve our help and support. They do not deserve to be treated like criminals.
Amongst those detained are people applying to be recognised by the Government as refugees. The 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits unnecessary restrictions on freedom of movement or any punitive measures taken against people who have entered a country after fleeing another country or territory where their life or freedom was at risk. In the light of this, I believe that immigration detention in itself is legally – as well as morally – wrong, however the Home Office skirts around the issue.

If you agree, please join us – if you can’t join the fast, share the info, write to your MP, do what you can do. Many hundreds of people will refuse food on International Women’s Day, but this is just the beginning. Ultimately we are seeking to change a detention system that refuses freedom to thousands of people every year. Immigration detention must end.

A full list of the demands of the Yarl’s Wood Hunger Strikers is below:
We want an end to indefinite detention and a return to the original plan of the 28 day limit.

We want the Home Office to respect Article 8.

We want the Home office to respect the European Convention of Human Rights regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

We want the Home Office to respect due process and stop deporting people before their cases are decided or appeals are heard.

We want due processes before we are imprisoned on immigration matters.

We want a fair bail process and the Home Office to end the process of selective evidence disclosure to the immigration tribunal courts and instead disclosure of all evidence to ensure a fair judgement is reached.

We want adequate healthcare and especially the mental health nurse to stop operating as an extension of the Home Office asking people such questions as, “did you know you were going to stay in the UK when you entered?”

We want amnesty for all people who have lived in the UK for more than 10 years and an end to the exiling of those who came as children and are culturally British.

We want an end to the Home Office’s of employing detainees to do menial work for £1 per hour, it preys on the vulnerable and forces them to participate in their own detention.

We want an end to charter flights and the snatching of people from their beds in the night and herding them like animals.

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