A recent study, which should have shocked none of us, has found that keeping refugee children incarcerated in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centers is bad for them. The study found a failure to assess “even at an elementary level” the general psychological well being of a child on arrival and a failure to recognise psychological harm when faced with dramatic changes in a child’s behaviour and:

expressed concern over his subsequent findings that children, some very young, were separated from their parents when transported to the centre,

The UK Border agency denies this but funnily enough I’m not going to trust the words of people who believe that locking up displaced and traumatized people is an acceptable thing to do, also I used to do a lot of work around refugee campaigns and have heard first hand reports of what conditions in detention centres are like.

The article thats reported this study also said:

A growing body of medial evidence, including a recent report from the royal colleges of paediatricians, GPs and psychiatrists, has found that the detention of children in the asylum system is linked to serious physical and psychological harm


Dr Rosalyn Proops, officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “These children are among the most vulnerable in our communities and detention causes unnecessary harm to their physical and mental health. The current situation is unacceptable and we urge the government to stop the detention of children without delay.”

I absolutely think retraumatizing refugee children this way is abhorrent and inhumane but we need to go further than this. It isn’t just refugee children that shouldn’t be locked up. Women in Yarl’s wood are also treated badly, recently a group went on hunger strike after presenting this list of demands and were treated appallingly and illegally by their captors
The f word reports:

they were herded into the hallway were they have been left there for over two hours without access to water or toilets. Four women, including an asthma sufferer, have fainted. Around 1.30 the guards came into the hallway and started to beat women. As we spoke to one woman she told us that someone was bleeding. One of the managers told the women they would regret what they have done; she called the Chinese women monkeys, and the Black women black monkeys.

According to women on the other wings all movement has been restricted – even those not on the hunger strike are not getting any food including diabetics who urgently need it.

and Indymediaadds:

One woman trapped in the corridor reports that”the guards were doing a roll call by holding up photos of us to the window. They did not help us when women started to collapse.”While some officers stood by laughing at the women having to urinate on the floor of the corridor, others made sure not to film their colleagues assaulting the women.

In what world this would ever be acceptable is beyond me. Nobody seeking asylum should be locked up, people should not be locked up for fleeing persecution. Punishing people for not being British is racist and inhumane, further to this I don’t even care why people end up here, whether they are refugees or not, crossing borders should not be a crime and people should not be incarcerated for it.

Ways to help

Sign the petition
Become a Yarl’s Wood Befriender
Support/work with Refugee Action
Become involved with No Borders
Support Women For Refugee Women

Mothers in the London-based All African Women’s Group are campaigning for the right to be reunited with their children following the successful settlement of their asylum claims. Many of the women, most of whom have experienced rape and torture, felt they had no choice but to leave their children in order to keep them safe, but when they enter the UK they are not recognised as mothers with dependants:

Go read more at The F Word and then sign the petition