Yarl’s Wood and Dungavel detention centres besieged

Two migrant removal centres were surrounded by crowds today demanding that the facilities, which have repeatedly been exposed as substandard and dangerous, be shut down and proper support offered to the often vulnerable people inside.

The solidarity rallies, which saw between 50 and 100 people at the Dungavel Centre south of Glasgow and more at Yarl’s Wood near Bedford, saw people beat the walls, make speeches and try to reach out to the detainees inside the prison to let them know they are not alone.

A supporter and friend of the Dungavel detainees said during the rally, which was organised by Glasgow’s Unity Centre: “I am from Harmondsworth. I want my freedom. Why I am treated like an animal?”

Large numbers also turned out to show solidarity at Yarl’s Wood, making good on calls from whistleblowers to do so independently of former organisers Movement for Justice (MfJ), who have been accused of attempting to use the protests to recruit for Trotskyist group the Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL) and manipulate people who got involved in the campaign. In a statement, participating group Unis against Borders said:

Throughout this entire debacle, MfJ has repeatedly failed to take any accountability for the wrongdoings that they’ve committed and used deplorable ableist language to discredit the survivor who is a disabled migrant. As a result, we will no longer be working with MfJ in the foreseeable future. Despite what has transpired, the survivors have indicated that they would very much like for the next Surround Yarl’s Wood to proceed ahead independent of MfJ. The survivors have repeatedly stressed that they “do not wish for Yarl’s Wood demonstration to be stopped because of my disclosure.”

We understand that since the revelations, many migrants groups have decided to disaffiliate from organising with MfJ and are organising independently with other grassroots migrant groups. We support those organising independent of MfJ that are attending the Yarl’s Wood demonstration to stand in solidarity with migrant women detained inside fighting for their freedom.

Protesters cordon Dungavel removal centre and kick the walls

Difficult questions

During the protests a trauma therapist who worked at Yarl’s Wood, Guilaine Kinouani, also offered insights into the solidarity protests.

In a series of posts on social media she raised the issue that many survivors incarcerated at the centres are so heavily traumatised by what they went through that the noise demos themselves could be triggering. She noted that “we are talking about women who can be deeply triggered by something as mundane as a door opening, a raised voice, a sudden sound… This is not the majority of women…but a good proportion. So you can imagine how challenging the sound of horns, shouting, crackers may be.”

The problem, Kinouani said, is that while more able and politicised people within the centres gained strength and support from the actions, they could also be damaging to others who would not be readily noticed from the outside.

“There is probably no cause that can be fought w/o doing some harm…but it does not mean, we invisibilise the harm we may deem necessary…” she added.