Week 7: #Unlocked16 visits Yarl’s Wood

Week 7 of Unlocking Detention saw us virtually visit Yarl’s Wood detention centre, perhaps the best known of all the UK’s sites of detention.  Opened in 2001 at a cost of £100 million, with an original capacity of 900 bed spaces, the centre was burnt down three months later in a fire. It reopened in 2003 on a smaller scale – it now holds up to 304 women & 68 families.   Did you know it can also hold men too? There are 38 beds for what guards have called ‘lorry-drop’ cases.

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Jess Anslow, coordinator of Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, wrote for the Unlocking Detention blog about the inspiration, friendship and challenges that befriending women in Yarl’s wood poses.

When I sing, I sing for them. When I speak, I speak of them. When I shout, I am shouting about them.

Read Jess’ blog post here

This week we also had a bit of a Latin American theme.  In a special Spanish recording for Unlocking Detention, Julio from the Freed Voices group speaks to four close friends about the impact his detention had on them. In doing so, together – Julio, Luz, Maria, Isabel and Jair – provide a devastating insight into the wider affects of indefinite detention, how it shapes the Latin American experience of the UK, and the vitality of community organising in response to this extreme deprivation of civil liberties.

Listen and read transcript here

Carolina of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service then wrote an article in response to hearing this interview for The Prisma newspaper, which has a big Spanish speaking readership.

Read the Prisma article in English here

Read the Prisma article en espagnol here

On Friday of “Yarl’s Wood week” of Unlocking Detention fell the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  René Cassin intern Hannah wrote this piece on the detention of women.

This week’s Q and A was with Mayalex, who has been detained in Yarl’s Wood for two and a half years.

Mayalex had some important messages to share from inside Yarl’s Wood.

When asked what was the one thing she missed:

And what one thing did she want to change?

Read the Q and A with Mayalex here

A sobering reminder of the constrictions of detention: we promised to send Mayalex the blog post of her Q and A.  We did, but of course the page is blocked in detention.  Yet another way of cutting people off from the outside world and the support from those outside.

This week we also published a brilliant short video made by Sarah Cope, a volunteer visitor to Yarl’s Wood.  Join her on a journey to Yarl’s Wood here.

On 3 December, thousands will gather at Yarl’s Wood to protest its existence, and to call an end to all detention.  Find out more about Movement for Justice’s demonstration here.

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