I befriend women detained at Yarl’s Wood: Their life in immigration limbo is excruciating

Vincett, Joanne (2018). I befriend women detained at Yarl’s Wood: Their life in immigration limbo is excruciating. In The Conversation The Conversation, London.

URL: https://theconversation.com/i-befriend-women-detai...


“Why am I still here?” This is the question I’m most frequently asked by detained women who I’ve befriended at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. The centre is mainly for women, but also holds families with children over 18-years-old and has a short-term holding facility for men.

For nearly two years, I’ve been researching and volunteering as a “befriender” and trustee with Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, a charitable volunteer visitors’ group that offers emotional and practical support to women migrants and asylum seekers detained in Yarl’s Wood. Detainees are allocated a befriender who visits them weekly until they leave the centre. But most of them don’t know when that will be, as detention is indefinite under current UK immigration policy.

On February 21, a group of women at Yarl’s Wood began a hunger strike against these conditions, boycotting the dining services at scheduled meal times. Befrienders have also reported that some women are boycotting other services and activities in the centre, such as the library and IT room. Some women have been told by the Home Office that they may be removed more quickly because they are refusing food.

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