FREE ALICE Wanju-Maina - Yarl's Wood freedom fighter assaulted by 10 Serco guards for wearing 'Freedom' T-shirt.
Police refuse to investigate assault in detention centre
Shut Down Yarl's Wood - End Detention - Defend Freedom of Expression & the Right to Organise
All Out on 8th August to Surround Yarl's Wood
For the simple, bold and creative act of writing the demand WE WANT FREEDOM on her T-shirt and resolutely defending her right to wear it openly in Yarl's Wood detention centre asylum seeker Alice Wanju-Maina, a victim of torture from Kenya, was brutally assaulted by ten of the centre's guards and forcibly taken to solitary confinement in its windowless isolation unit. Alice's action is part of the growing resistance in Yarl's Wood; her treatment at the hands of Serco, the private company that runs the centre on behalf of the Home Office indicates the true, unchanging character of immigration detention.
Alice is a leader of the struggle in Yarl's Wood and part of the movement inside and outside Britain's detention centres that is becoming more organised and more confident as it wins important victories. The series of demonstrations the Movement for Justice has organised, jointly with detainees, at Harmondsworth and Yarl's Wood detention centres over the past year has been the national focus for the growth of this movement. We have seen four, increasingly strong, decisions in the High Court & Court of Appeal that Fast Track - the system that took asylum seekers into detention and set them up to fail, getting refusals 99% of the time - was UNLAWFUL. The movement inspired a Parliamentary Inquiry that roundly condemned the whole system and was vindicated by the undercover reports on Yarl's Wood and Harmondsworth detention centres broadcast on Channel 4 News in March, exposing the racism, sexism and brutality of detention. In the same month the Government was forced to abandon plans to double the size of Campsfield centre near Oxford. In the last month it has been forced to 'suspend' the use of Fast Track entirely. There is no other struggle for justice in Britain that has achieved so much against this Government.
Women in Yarl's Wood have been at the forefront of this struggle, taking direct, collective action to protest at the racism & sexism of detention, defend women facing deportation, securing medical attention for fellow detainees, intervening with visiting prison inspectors and MPs, calling the media to report scandals - fighting by any means necessary. They inspired the 1000-strong national demonstration on 6th June that breached the perimeter fence and became a joint protest inside and outside.
Since then Movement for Justice women in Yarl's Wood have led the T-shirt campaign that Alice is part of. Simply wearing the slogans FREEDOM NOW and WE WANT FREEDOM is a practical challenge to the arbitrary power of detention officers, who have responded with threats and intimidation. Officers told one group of women they would be sent to prison if they didn't take off the T-shirts, told others they wouldn't get food, confiscated pens & make-up from some of their rooms, and refused to fax documents for a bail hearing to one woman's lawyers.
Alice went to collect post on Friday morning (17th July) together with other women, some also wearing the T-shirts. In the post room she was singled out for threats and harassment by three officers in a public attempt to spread fear, but she adamantly refused to take of the T-shirt. She told the officers that what she wrote is what she believed and what she was demanding. When she left the officers 'stalked' her back to her room and continued to harass and abuse her. Alice escalated her defiance by taking off not just her T-Shirt but the rest of her clothing as well - a bold assertion that denying a woman's right to wear what she chooses is a demeaning, sexist attack on her dignity and independence.
Alice was ordered to the isolation unit, known as Kingfisher House, but she bravely resisted all the way. It took ten officers to take her to Kingfisher. She was handcuffed and at one point an officer was sitting on her neck. It was a brutal assault by Serco's thugs.
The intimidation backfired because Alice is not an isolated individual. Other T-shirt protesters got the news out immediately and within hours the Movement for Justice and other campaigning organisations had circulated it widely and people were phoning Serco and alerting the media. By Friday evening Alice was released from Kingfisher.
Alice was and remains in great pain; her neck is still swollen and she has difficulty moving. Yarl's Wood's so-called 'healthcare' (run by G4S) dismissed her requests to treat and photograph her injuries with a few anti-depressants! On Sunday she reported the assault to Bedfordshire Police. When hours later she had heard nothing more she called again, to be told that they had been to Yarl's Wood, spoken to officers and taken CCTV video. Alice demanded that they return, see and photograph her injuries and take a statement from her. The police response was that they had already closed the file and were taking no further action. Not for the first time Bedfordshire Police is part of the attempts by the Home Office and Serco to cover up their crimes at Yarl's Wood.
We must act urgently to smash the cover up, win Alice Wanju-Maina freedom and support the Yarl's Wood women in their T-shirt Battle.
What you can do...
Phone or fax Serco at Yarl's Wood IRC - Demand that they recognise the women's right to freedom of expression and stop harassing women wearing Freedom T-shirts; demand that Alice is taken to hospital to get treatment for her injuries.
Telephone: 01234 821 000
Fax: 01234 821 096
Fax UK Visas & Immigration at Yarl's Wood - demand that Alice Wanju-Maina is released immediately.
Fax 01234 271 349
Contact Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford - he is a local MP and has called for the closure of Yarl's Wood. Call on him to demand that Serco stop harassing the T-shirt protesters and that the Home Office releases Alice Wanju-Maina.
Tel: 01234 261487 (Constituency office) and 020 7219 7012(Parliamentary office)
Phone/Email the Inspectors of Prisons - demand that they return to Yarl's Wood, meet with the Alice and the other women and carry out an immediate investigation into the brutal treatment and threats to T-shirt protesters.
Phone: 020 3681 2770
Copy all emails to Home Secretary Theresa May & Immigration Minister James Brokenshire...
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org