This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Submission to Home Affairs Comittee re Investigation into rape and sexual and other abuse in Yarl's Wood IRC

 Keith Vaz MP,
Chair, Home Affairs Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

18 June 2014

Dear Keith Vaz,

Re Investigation into rape and sexual and other abuse in Yarl's Wood IRC

We understand from Simon Cox, the presenter of BBC Radio's File on 4, who is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by guards in Yarl's Wood IRC, that the Yarl’s Wood Serco Management Team are appearing before your Committee on Tues 24 June. In order for MPs to be fully informed before they hear from and question Serco, can your Committee take evidence from women who have made complaints about their treatment from Serco guards and other staff? You may have already spoken to some of the women whose allegations of abuse have been reported in the Observer and other media outlets but we know that some of those women have not had a chance to submit evidence to the Committee and in addition, since the Observer articles and film, new information has come out.

Some of the issues that your Committee may not be aware of include:
• The same guard being named independently by several women as being responsible for sexual abuse over at least four years. He is still working at Yarl's Wood.
• Negligent and damaging medical treatment by Serco health care staff. One staff member, who is still employed in the healthcare unit, was named by several women as systematically denying medical care to sick women.
• Several women reported in the past three days that they are being threatened by Serco staff for participating in an International Day of Action against Detention and speaking by phone to protesters who gathered outside Yarl’s Wood on Sunday. Women are worried they will be targeted by Serco management in future.

Ms Z, currently detained in Yarl’s Wood, is one of several women who would like to speak to the Committee. She could do so by phone if a time could be arranged. On 27 May 2014, she wrote to Home Secretary, Theresa May. She has still not received an acknowledgement from the Home Office. What she documented about the detention of a Chinese woman who has been held for over two years and who was injured when she fell over, is very serious and should have been investigated immediately. As a result of Ms Z expressing her concern and helping publicise this, we heard that the Chinese woman has been released. We are sure the Committee would want to know why anyone has been held in detention for so long. You will know of course that the High Court has ruled in a series of judgments that detention for years with no prospect of deportation is unlawful.

Ms Z would also give evidence about the intimidation and threats she has faced from Serco staff since she wrote to the Home Secretary, spoke to the press, and facilitated other detainees speaking to protesters outside Yarl’s Wood on Sunday 15 June. It is bad enough that there is no confidential effective complaints procedure which would allow women to report abuse from guards without the risk of reprisals from those very guards (who may in addition have the power to ensure the continued imprisonment of women or even deportation), but when women decide to publicise their complaints in order that they be acted on, their right to free speech should be respected.

We have been working closely with both File on 4 and The Observer to publicise the abuse and serious human rights violations in Yarl’s Wood so that the public is informed and so that it is stopped. Yarl’s Wood holds many vulnerable women (our research found that 70% of detainees are rape survivors for example). The public is rightly horrified that women who have suffered in this way are being held in what appears to be a predatory and abusive environment in conditions reminiscent of the torture they fled from in their home country. Your investigation could be a turning point in holding Serco to account for allowing such a regime to flourish. It is vital therefore that the Committee is in possession of all the relevant information.

We appreciate it is short notice, but can the Home Affairs Committee receive a delegation of ex-detainees as soon as possible and accept phone testimony from women still in detention?

We look forward to an early response.

Yours sincerely,
Cristel Amiss,

Project co-ordinator
Black Women's Rape Action Project
Crossroads Women's Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
T: 020 7482 2496 F:020 7267 729
www.womenagainstrape.net

cc John McDonnell, MP
Simon Cox, File on 4

Attachments:
Letter to Theresa May, 27 May 2014
Rule 38 complaint to Serco
The Observer, 24 May 2014

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