‘Policy breach of human rights’
1st March 2010
Describing the ‘incarceration’ of four women at Yarl’s Wood as cruel, inhumane and degrading the lawyers have decided to seek a judicial review of government’s detention policy. The lawyers claimed that the policy was a breach of articles three, five and eight of the European convention on human rights.
The lawyers are scheduled to launch a legal challenge today on behalf of four women held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The lawyers will submit the application at the High Court in London.
Today’s legal challenge follows a report by the children’s commissioner last month that said children held at the centre faced "extremely distressing" arrest. They were subjected to lengthened and sometimes frequent periods of detention.
Shiner said the application for a judicial review was based on the cases of four women and three children. He will be asking for a judge to look at the case within 24 hours and hoped the hearing will start within a month. Meanwhile, Serco, the private company that manages Yarl’s Wood, described allegations of inhumane and degrading treatment as "unfounded and untrue".
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said that the disgraceful policy will now be the subject of legal challenge. “It was unlawful. We are calling, on behalf of our clients, for the policy to be struck down and for there to be an independent investigation," added Phil Shiner.
The move comes at a time when there is increasingly bitter row over the treatment of the women and children held at the Bedfordshire detention centre.The Home Office Minister, Meg Hillier had sent a letter to Member Parliament’s last week denying claims by women at Yarl’s Wood that they had been on hunger strike for three weeks.
Hillier had stated that, there were a little number of captives refusing formal meals from the canteen. They were instead buying food from the centre’s shop and vending machines and having food delivered by visitors.
Elaborating in her letter, Hillier had asserted that the women’s health had been checked and there was no cause for concern. She also denied claims by detainees that they had been racially abused and assaulted during a protest last month. She further added that all the detainees were treated with dignity and respect by the staff.
Letter by Meg Hillier did not find favour with the detainees, campaigners and some member parliaments’. They have reacted furiously to her letter. On Friday, as many as 34 women at Yarl’s Wood had issued a statement through the Black Women’s Rape Action Project insisting they were still on hunger strike. The strike enters its fourth week today.
Reacting to Hillier’s letter the detainee women said that at no particular point in time had they gone to eat in the dining room. The women claimed that they never got food from the vending machines or at the shop and stood by their claims that some of them were assaulted during the protest on February 8 while others were called "black monkeys".
Coming out in support of the detainees, the member parliaments’ have strongly criticised the government’s reaction to the protest. Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, said that he had written to the chief inspector of prisons asking her to conduct an "urgent unannounced visit" to investigate the situation. John McDonnell, a Labour MP, has called for an independent inquiry into the recent allegations of "violence, mistreatment and racist abuse" at the centre.
Donnell said that they were asking the government to look at the issue seriously and hold an independent inquiry. He further asserted that the government by turning a blind eye was intensifying the problems. This could even lead to more serious problems like riots and burning down of detention centres.
Cristel Amiss, speaking on behalf of the women’s project said that the government was falling on its face with its ineffective attempts to cover hunger strikers. Amiss asserted that they were in touch with the hunger strikers. They knew that empty-headed claims that women were treated with dignity and respect meant nothing in the face of crushing evidence of awful conditions and abuse."
The Observer a day before reported that Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, and John Vine, the agency’s chief inspector, are to be questioned by the home affairs select committee about the situation at Yarl’s Wood.