I had the pleasure of attending an evening of drama, song, spoken word and poetry that I helped form! The night was to raise awareness to the inhumane treatment these women suffer while trying to seek asylum. In a multitude of voices we learnt that Dallas Court is a ‘dungeon’ in Salford. Many of these women have to find their own way there, with no money or help. 85% of asylum seekers are on vouchers with no cash for other essentials. Since they must sign in, sometimes up to 2/3 times a week, these ladies are in a constant cycle of misery and panic. Unauthorised to work, signing in becomes a day of distress. If those with some sort of support go through this, imagine the dread for those on their own who don’t know the system at all. Many are destitute and these women are often housed in accommodation that is uninhabitable, waiting for considerable time before anyone helps with repairs.
Those asylum seekers who are refused stay are taken to court. The immigration system dictates that to appeal a decision – if you are granted that right, means you have to return to the country you fled from and wait for the decision to be made in the UK. Many asylum seekers do not have access to legal aid therefore struggle to find representation. Since they are prohibited from working, many cannot afford solicitor fees. As one woman said, everything is arranged so that they fail. Often a couple of days before the court hearing, solicitors will suddenly decide to not represent them which means they must find other means, Those that can’t read or write face a double jeopardy.
Describing Yarls Wood, ‘It’s not a detention centre – it’s a concentration camp,’ said one woman. Situated in Bedfordshire, it consists of mostly women. Anyone based in Manchester cannot expect visitors to make a trip that will take them hours. It’s in the middle of nowhere so no other people are visible apart from other detainees and the guards. So many are kept here indefinitely with no charge. Their only crime has been to seek sanctuary. WAST women who have been incarcerated for up to 2/3 years have been abused or witnessed sexual abuse.
A lot of women are detained despite sticking to rules and despite being sick. With no access to interpreters or doctors, Yarls Wood is said to be worse than prison. Women spoke of being sexually harassed, denied anti-natal care with no medical attention from staff oblivious to their needs.
WAST have staged demonstrations to shut down Yarls Wood since 2012. One woman likened it to the government’s way of establishing modern day slavery. Women are paid £1 an hour for the work they do inside.
One lady from Pakistan who has been seeking asylum for 14 years now was , sexually abused in Yarls Wood by a young man causing her much distress. Thanks to WAST and the solicitors involved, she was able to come back to Manchester. Another woman also incarcerated has been left with severe eye problems due to the neglect she suffered inside.
WAST relies on the letters of support that are written to MPs. As ongoing enquiries continue into Yarls Wood the Government have just extended an 8 year contract to keep it going. So many aspects need changing in the system and they need our support. They are contactable on Facebook and Twitter. Show you care xxx