From the 12th – 18th November, #Unlocked18 visited Yarl’s Wood IRC in Bedford. It was a packed week, with new content every day alongside new graphics and illustrations.

Also this week, Sanctuary in Parliament took place, JRS and the Detention Forum presented Dame Caroline Spelman MP with a Detention Forum Champion Award, the #TheseWallsMustFall campaign launched in Bristol, and we released another segment of our Unlocking Detention timeline.

Read on for a full round-up!

Yarl’s Wood

Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire was the focus of this week. Here, up to 410 people can be detained indefinitely, most of them women. It has been the location of six hunger strikes since 2001; the most recent was in February of this year. Yarl’s Wood Befrienders (@YWBefrienders) offer vital support to those held there.

Theresa: Letter from a hunger striker

The first post of the week was a letter sent from Yarl’s Wood by Theresa (not her real name), a young mother and one of the leaders of the hunger-strikes earlier this year. On the evening she was refused bail, Theresa wrote:

What can I say right now, I feel terrible, frustrated, angry, bitter, I just want to scream so loud maybe I’ll feel better.

I am hanging onto a thread of hope, if it was not for God today, I could choose to die, end my life and know that life is indeed meaningless.

I wish I can explain the exact pain pounding inside my heart. Why do people have to suffer like this? When can I be wholly happy and successful in life.

Watch the graphic below for more, and read the rest of Theresa’s letter here.

Resisting state violence: The Yarl’s Wood hunger strike

Tuesday’s blog came from Fidelis Chebe, Project Director at Migrant Action. It focused on the hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood in February of this year, which lasted over a month and involved 120 women. Read it here.

“For me, Yarl’s Wood was another torture”

On Wednesday we heard from Gabby, who was detained twice in Yarl’s Wood in 2017. Gabby said,

Stephen Shaw… recommended that reducing the number of women locked up in detention centres needs to be a priority. I couldn’t agree more. Detention is killing us, it’s wrong. I was abused, but instead of getting help and support I was locked up. I deserve to be free and safe.

It’s time the Home Office stopped detaining vulnerable women so that other women don’t have to live through the trauma that I am living with. Yarl’s Wood will haunt me forever.

Read the full blog here.

Snow: Visiting in Yarl’s Wood

Ali Brumfitt, a volunteer befriender and now volunteer coordinator for Yarl’s Wood Befrienders (YWB), wrote about visiting a friend in Yarl’s Wood. Ali writes,

I can’t imagine having worries the size my friend has to carry. I don’t think I would be strong enough. I can’t get my head around how I would cope if I were locked up, with no idea when I might be released. How would I feel if the weight of the legal system was pushing on me to try and force me out of the country?

“Every day, they used to walk in and pick somebody”: Living with the uncertainty of detention and removal

On Friday, we had a recording from Bristol Free Voice, a citizen journalism project. In the recording, a woman speaks of her experience of being detained in Yarl’s Wood and being an asylum seeker in the ‘hostile environment’. You can listen to it here.

Eight times in detention: Why?

The final piece of the week was a collaboration between women detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre and the YWB. It drew on words and images produced at one of the weekly ‘drop in’ sessions held by YWB. Read it here.

Also this week…

JRS UK presented Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP with The Detention Forum Champion Award. This was in recognition of her sustained efforts to seek detention reform. Read more here.

On Monday, Sanctuary in Parliament took place, bringing together MPs, experts-by-experience, and many others. You can see photos from the event here and read tweets at #SanctuaryinParliament. And there is still time to take action to influence the next Immigration Bill by writing to your MP – all the information you need is here!

Finally, Saturday saw the launch of #TheseWallsMustFall in Bristol! Find out more about the campaign here.