Funke, a Nigerian woman detained in Yarl’s Wood has joined the hunger strike today to express solidarity with fellow detainees and to protest her personal circumstances.
Funke is facing deportation from the UK tomorrow. Speaking to Freedom News, she said that she came to the UK as a minor. Anticipating some legal issues regarding her right to live in the UK, she applied for leave to remain a few months before turning 18. The Home Office responded by saying that they expect her to leave the country the year she turns 18. Following legal advice, Funke filed asylum claim, but that was rejected in court. Funke was later detained.
“ They don’t tell us what time the flight will be. I don’t know any details. I’m also not allowed any luggage with me: I’m being deported to the country in which I’ve never lived as an adult, and I’m not allowed to take anything with me. I have mental health issues, but the home office doesn’t believe me”, she said speaking to Freedom News. She is not sure if there is still a legal way to avoid her deportation.
Funke has been detained in Yarl’s Wood for about five weeks. Despite of ongoing health problems, she joined the hunger strike today. She intends to carry on the strike for as long as possible.
Yarl’s Wood opened in 2001 and began accepting women and families in 2002. It is known for mistreatment of detained women. Despite a cross party All‐Parliamentary Working Group recommending that detention should be limited to 28 days, that there should be no detention of rape survivors and pregnant women and expressing concern about healthcare and the denial of legal representation, no effective action has been taken.
Moreover, in 2005, research based on interviews with over 100 women in Yarl’s Wood, published by Legal Action for Women, found that 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood were victims of rape and/or other sexual violence prior to their detention. It was also the first time that the complaints of “sexual intimidation from guards” were documented. Since then, many more women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and even rape from guards. Giving guards power over women enables them to exploit women’s vulnerability and abuse with impunity. That just adds to the many problems faced by detainees.