I am one of the ladies on hunger strike at Yarl’s wood centre. On Monday 8th February 2010 around 11 45am GMT time, some group of women stood at the centre of a hall in the center. We were protesting about the condition at the centre and the length of time we spend in here. An officer approached the group and informed us that an immigration official would like to see us all to discuss the issues that we have raised.
The officer told us to follow him down the corridor to the immigration office. We proceed down to the end of the corridor. When we got to the very end, the officer asked that we should go inside the office 4 ladies at a time. They allowed 4 women to enter and told us that they will let 4 more in when those 4 inside gets out. One of the manager of the centre ( a lady manager called Viv Moore) came from the long corridor and asked us if we wanted to go back to our rooms. We told her that we were waiting to see the immigration. She said we are just wasting our time and that nothing is going to be achieved from our protest. She then asked the officers in the room to come with her and as soon as they got to the door, the last officer locked the door on us. They all stayed outside watching us through the door window.
We were singing and chanting for about one and a half hour since we have been looked up, some ladies went to the door and asked to go to the toilet. The officers including the manager Viv Moore told us that we are not allowed to leave where we are. Some of the ladies started getting sick and collapsing on the floor. There was one asthma lady, one sickle cell lady and two others who were choking on the floor. We were all hyper-ventilating and sweating. There was no door or windows open and we were all complaining of lack of air. Around 2.00pm, Some Chinese girls asked the officers to go to the toilet and they were told no one is allowed to get out. The Chinese bend down at the corner and pee on the floor. Few minutes later others copied them and wee on the ground. the officers were all watching and still refused to open the door. Some people decided to call the emergency service for the ladies having breathing difficulty. The police and ambulance were asked for and they called us back to tell us they are outside of the center but are not allowed entry.
About an hour after the police called us back, some ladies realised that the window was only closed not locked. They opened the window and got out into the compound. Other ladies went through the window and joined them. More were trying to get out through the window but the officers had seen what was happening and had gone round the compound to meet them. They were carrying police guard shield and wearing heavy jacket. They crushed the ladies who were trying to get out with the guard shied and pushed them to the ground. Some women were crushed to the ground and beaten up. Two ladies were physically injured and were bleeding. The windows were protected with the guard shield and the officers holding on to the guard shield. We were all hysterical and upset and were begging the officers not to hurt the women outside. The officers laughed at us as more officers joined them and formed a line to force the women outside in one small corner.
Some women needed to change their sanitary towel cause they were on their period but they had to throw bloodied towel next to where we were standing. We were all exhausted and demoralized by 5.00pm and we had no choice but to sit on the soiled floor. There was no chair or anything to lean on. There was an helicopter hovering above outside by this time but the women outside were not allowed to move from where they are being crushed. Some officers came outside to offer the officers chips and hot drinks. They were replaced by new officers every hour. No officer stayed guard for more than one hour. Every next hour, new sets of officers comes to replace them from their position. The women locked up and the 19 women outside were not offered any food or drink.There was no heat in the small place where we were locked and we all suffered from hypothermia. The ladies outside had to stand in the cold snow without sock and jacket and the officers will not allow them to have jacket. We tried to get them jackets and jumpers through the windows and the officers smashed the window on one of the ladies fingers.Her middle finger was damaged and her fingernail came off. There was blood everywhere and the officers still refused her medical treatment. We were not moved from where we have been detained until 7.30pm.
We were told to come out in pairs and were searched with around a dozen officers watching us. We were offered food and medication after the search and then led to our wings. We were about 70 which consist many Nigerians, Chinese, Jamaicans, Zimbabweans and some nationals that I do not remember. I have been traumatised and victimised because of this experience. I can never believe this can happen in the UK and I am still in shock.
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Came to UK- December 1987.
3 British children