O ver the next few weeks, Exeter is going to be a prominent centre for the movement called #ShutDownYarlsWood. Unknown to many, Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is a detention centre found in Bedfordshire, but plays host to almost postapocalyptic, Orwellian narratives. Holding over 400 women, often against their will, often illegally, and with over 70 per cent of the detainees having reported sexual assault and intimidation from the guards, it has been a site of immense suffering over the past decade.
Yarl’s Wood no longer can hold pregnant women or children, but it is not enough
At the moment, this supposed ‘asylum’ can hold the women there indeﬁnitely, keeping them from friends, families, and the better life they came here searching for. As it stands, for them, Britain is hardly better than the war-ridden countries they have tried to escape from. But hopefully, with the help of local societies and movements, not for much longer. After nine demonstrations, change is ﬁnally starting to happen. Pushed into change by public revulsion, Yarl’s Wood no longer can hold pregnant women or children, but it is not enough. The next step is to shut it down.
For the next month, Exeter University’s own Feminist Society will be collaborating with local branches of Sisters Uncut (a British feminist direct action group that is opposed to cuts to UK government services for domestic violence victims) to spread knowledge of the Yarl’s Wood atrocities and to send support to East Anglia from the West Country. FemSoc and Sisters Uncut Bristol will be joining groups from all over the country in travelling to Bedford to join in the tenth protest on December 3rd at the detention centre. They want to mobilize as many people around the country as they can, and show that Exeter – along with so many other towns nationwide – will not stand for such abuses of human rights any longer. They still have spaces for people to join them, to ﬁght to rectify the mistakes of our own countries against these refugees.
We stand with them
This is not all. On 23 November, Movement for Justice will be speaking in Exeter, motivating and educating people on the topic of Yarl’s Wood. As a charity partly staffed by ex-detainees of the detention centre, this provides an amazing chance to hear the truth about the events and scandals which surround this institution. This event will be more than just an unparalleled learning opportunity for anyone interested in the struggles of asylum seekers in our ‘green and pleasant land’; it allows us to show these once-victims that not only are they welcome here, but that we will defend future refugees from what they had to needlessly suffer. We stand with them.
These are the two dates to mark in your diary: 23 November and 3 December. Exeter will be participating in an immense nationwide movement, one of huge importance in a post-Brexit society where the fate of refugees is too easily brushed under the carpet. Hopefully this protest will be the ﬁnal push needed to close Yarl’s Wood for good. This time, we will be able to #ShutDownYarlsWood.
For more updates, please check the FemSoc Facebook page, or search for either of the following events; ‘From Inside Yarl’s Wood: Fighting Immigration Detention Talk’ on 23 November, or ‘Demonstration to SHUT DOWN YARLS WOOD and ALL detention centres’, on 3 December.