Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"Why I Am On Hunger Strike At Yarl's Wood"

Below we reprint the words off one of the Yarl's Wood hunger strikers, Denise McNeil, courtesy of the Guardian and post a short video transcription of a phone call with an unnamed hunger striker.

"I have been on hunger strike for more than a fortnight. I feel weak and get terrible headaches. A ­doctor says I should eat, but I am still refusing food. I can't sleep because I am woken every hour of the night when the light goes on and somebody here checks on me.

The women have been through terrible experiences – some are survivors of rape and torture – but we are treated like criminals. When we staged a protest two weeks ago, we were locked in a corridor, with no water or toilet facilities. After two hours, some women felt sick. One had an asthma attack and we begged the officers to let her out, but they refused. Since then, I have been detained in isolation.

I came to the UK from Jamaica in April 2000. My brother had been murdered by a gang, and my sister was going to be a witness at the trial – then she was killed too. I realised I would be murdered if I stayed, so I came to Britain. My son, then seven, joined me a few months later.

I didn't know that I could claim asylum. Instead, I started a computer course and applied for a student visa. This was refused. Around the same time, I started a relationship with a British man and we were married and had a son, so I applied for a marital visa. This was also refused.

I was brought to Yarl's Wood in March last year and told I would be deported. My other brother came to the UK in 2000, but he was ­deported to Jamaica within five years. Last month, he was murdered. I am still trying to ­convince the immigration officials that my life is in danger too. All I want is to live a safe, normal life with my children in Britain."

Video of a phone interview with one of the Yarl's Wood hunger strikers.

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