When the Big Door Closes- New Report on Detention of Women Asylum Seekers

On Monday, a new report by Women For Refugee Women detailing the conditions of female asylum detainees was released.

The report consisted of interviews with 46 women about their experiences in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.

‘When the big door closed it brought back everything that had happened to me back home when I was in prison. I thought that I was going to be raped. The fear overtook me.’

There were widespread reports that women were followed into the bathrooms and showers by male guards.

Half of the women interviewed reported that they had been verbally abused by the guards. 85% of the women interview had been victims of either torture or rape in their home countries. One women revealed that she had been sexually abused in detention.

‘I was having a shower when they opened the door. It was a woman and a male guard.

I was naked.’

This is not the first instance of allegations of sexual abuse at Yarl’s Wood. In September of last year, it was alleged that the guards at Yarl’s Wood, which is run by private security company Serco, were sexually abusing female detainees, often offering to assist with immigration cases in exchange for sex. Serco denies the allegation. When a woman claimed that she had filed an official report, Serco responded that they had not received any.

Rather than conducting an official investigation, the government deported several of the witnesses involved in the above claims.

‘I thought that the male guards were going to do to me what the soldiers had done to me back home.’

A few months later, we have this new report, telling us the same story. Women who were raped and tortured are detained, with the validity of their statements questioned, perpetuating the cycle of abuse where victims of sexual violence are constantly accused of lying. Women who have fled human trafficking and forced prostitution.  Extremely vulnerable women are detained, violating the government’s own guideline of not detaining torture victims.

‘When I left detention, Yarl’s Wood followed me to Manchester. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a trance, I feel I hear the footsteps of the officers, I hear the banging of the doors and the sound of their keys. Even though I’m out of detention, I’m not really out – I still have those dreams.’

And yet…. there was no splash. No scandal. No government official distancing itself but condemming what happened. No public outrage. No calls for a public enquiry. It was not even reported on the BBC. Talk about public service broadcasting. Save for a little attention from some media (The Independent, The Mirror, The Courier and the Belfast Telegraph).

In fact, the government claims that detention it’s a vital part of its immigration policy (which is highly problematic, and a topic for another post. Mary Bosworth calls is ‘governing through border controls’).

It seems the Big Door of public interest is well and truly closed on this issue.

I don’t understand why there is so much indifference when such clear suffering is happening within our borders.

Some of you will say that these are just stories and allegations. But allegations should be investigated. We shouldn’t dismiss allegations as fabrications. This will only slam the door in the face of the women in Yarls’ Wood, none of which are criminals. They are asylum seekers. They are vulnerable and need help.

There is petition to bring this case to Theresa May. Please, let us all sign it and help push the door open just a little bit.

Thank you.

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