Yarl’s Wood still not free from `racism, mistreatment’

A detained Zimbabwean asylum seeker on hunger strike, protesting alleged racism and mistreatment

17th March 2007:
Less than a month after Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Meg Hillier claimed Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre was free from incidents of racial abuse and violence, a detained Zimbabwean asylum seeker is on a hunger strike.

The 43-year-old woman, locked up in the Yarl’s Wood detention facility for over five months, is protesting against alleged racism and mistreatment at the hands of detention centre employees.

The woman had fled to the UK after being beaten, tortured and raped. She has accused the staff of racist abuse and has alleged medical mistreatment. Even as the authorities are refuting the allegations, she has alleged that the officers are not even sympathetic.

The detainee is also objecting to prolonged detention, even after independent verification of the torture she suffered in Zimbabwe.

Legal experts say asylum seekers subjected to tortured are to be locked up “in exceptional circumstances” in the UK. But the woman’s claims, brought to the fore by the UK’s Observer, suggest even they are being subjected to wrongful detention.

Quoting medical charities carrying out independent assessments of torture survivors as a part of the UK’s asylum application process, the UK’s Observer has suggested their reports are being overlooked.

A testimony to this effect is provided by complaints lodged with the UK Home Office by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. The UK charity dedicated to treatment of torture survivors has complained that its assessments and evidence of abuse among asylum seekers have been dismissed.

Doling out last 18 months’ figures, the charity has claimed only seven have been released from detention out of 250 cases where clinical evidence of abuse was presented.

Refuting the allegations, the UK Border Agency’s director for protection Hugh Ind has asserted they have been trying to clear a backlog of asylum cases, and have introduced a fast track system. But it is being widely criticised.
Otherwise also, Meg Hillier had only recently claimed `Yarl’s Wood has free on-site primary healthcare provision and this reflects the level of care provided by NHS general practices.

GPs visit Yarl’s Wood for 46 hours a week and are available on call at all times. There are registered on-site counselors who work with children and their families taking a holistic approach to meet the families’ needs.

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