Women at an earlier demonstration
Women in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre, whom we are working with on a daily basis, have asked us to circulate their letter (See file attachment below for the letter) highlighting the appalling conditions and grave injustice they face in detention. Their demand for an independent investigation to “listen to our grievances and give us justice”, is being raised at the same time as front page newspaper articles expose the widespread destitution of asylum seekers, racist attacks and violence from immigration guards against people during removal and attempts to deport Zimbabwean women weakened by over 40 days of hunger strikes.
In this letter, addressed to the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations and the media, women protest at:
* Victims of torture and rape being detained.
* Pregnant women being beaten.
* Women being detained for long periods (one of the signatories has been held for over 11 months despite the fact that she cannot be returned to Somalia).
* Racism – “The people who suffer mostly in the hands of cruel and brutal immigration officers are Africans and Asians among other continents thus evidence that racism is exercised so much in UK”.
* The fast track procedure which allows only 24 hours for women to present their claim for asylum. 
* Appeal hearings and removals being imposed without notification.
* Bail being refused despite women having “families with citizenship”.
* Lack of interpreters – “They are never available when needed, even during asylum interviews”
* Lawyers demanding money despite women having no money to pay and despite them being listed as legal aid solicitors.
Women’s demands confirmed by research
Women’s experiences in detention mirror the findings of Legal Action for Women’s research: ‘A “Bleak House” in Our Times: An investigation into women’s rights violations at Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre’ which found that over 50% of women had no lawyer and 70% of women had been raped. In addition, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape’s ‘Misjudging Rape: Breaching Gender Guidelines & International Law in Asylum Appeals’ documents how women’s accounts of rape are met by hostility, racism and sexism.
From our daily work we know how often women have bravely tried to speak for themselves at appeal hearings, sometimes when English is not their first language -- there are now few lawyers available to represent women and those that do are often incompetent, lazy, negligent or even corrupt. One witness to a recent appeal hearing described a confused, young woman from Nigeria with limited English and shaking with fear, being forced to represent herself -- the judge proceeded regardless.
There is also a dearth of other help. Grassroots groups like ours are carrying a disproportionate load in trying to provide support to women in detention, whilst established voluntary organisations, many of which have taken government contracts to implement asylum policy, say little about the injustice they see and know. Despite their substantial funding, there has been no corresponding increase in practical help for women facing removal back to possible torture, rape and even death.
Even though there is a real risk of reprisals, 22 women have signed the letter.
22 October 2007
What you can do:
Write pressing for an immediate independent investigation. Please send letters to:
Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith, Secretary of State for the Home Office
Fax: 020 7035 3262
Anne Owers CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 1st Floor Ashley House 2 Mouck Street, London SW1P 2BQ Fax: 020 7035 2141
Stephen Shaw, Prisons Ombudsman
Fax 020 7035 2860, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yakin Erturk, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women email@example.com
Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,
Fax: 001 212 963 3463
Human Rights Complaints, HRC against Torture firstname.lastname@example.org
We have requested that the Independent Asylum Commission hold a hearing inside Yarl’s Wood. If you would like to support that request please write to Sir John Waite & Ifath Nawaz, Co-chairs, IAC via the website enquiry form or post: 112 Cavell St, London, E1 2JA
Please send copies of any letters to:
Black Women’s Rape Action Project email@example.com
Legal Action for Women firstname.lastname@example.org
020 7482 2496 or 07980 659 831
 Ms E from Cameroon recently won the right to stay under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, overturning a refusal at an appeal hearing inside Yarl’s Wood, under the fast track, heard by immigration judge Warren L Grant. Almost uniquely, we were able to find new lawyers to appeal, without which Ms E would have been deported.
 We can provide evidence of this based on official complaints we have made about lawyers.