I heard on Sunday morning of an asylum seeker who was picked up yesterday and sent to Yarlswood women and children’s detention center. I have visited and met some of the women in Yarlswood and personally know two women, a young Nigerian lesbian and a young Ugandan woman both deported last year to Lagos and this year to Kampala – two cities where neither has lived or has family. The Ugandan woman had spent 5 years within the legal process of seeking asylum on the basis of sexual assault. Every few weeks asylum seekers have to check in with the police. As the date nears one becomes more and more anxious wondering if this will be the time they decide to physically grab you and send you to Yarlswood and 24 hours later on a plane.
Once again, the papers are full of reports about children being placed in Yarlswood which is run by a private security company SERCO. The horror of Yarlswood is that it is a prison yet no one imprisoned there has committed a crime. Still they are locked up, harassed, subject to body searches, abuse and sexual assault by guards, and wait for the moment they will be physically restrained en route to Gatwick or Heathrow and forced on to a plane. The latest story centers on SERCO refusing to allow two Anglican pastors from bringing Christmas presents for the children.
The Mothers’ Campaign of the All African Women’s group are mothers who have had to flee to the UK. The mothers had to make the very difficult decision to leave their children behind because they felt they would be safer without them. They have launched a petition for family reunion which they plan to submit on Mothers Day in March 2010. You can sign here. .