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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Yarl's Wood hunger strike

UP TO 30 women detainees at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire are continuing a hunger strike. It began on 4 February in protest over their poor conditions, separation from their children, poor health and legal provisions and length of internment.

According to media reports, 20 of the women are facing serious health problems as a result of the hunger strike.

There are increasing calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the centre. As one detainee said: "We need our cases looking at. I have a little girl and am not a criminal but I have been locked up in here for 15 months and no one can tell me when that will change."

The home office and the camp's management deny mistreatment of the detainees, however, a recent report by the Children's Commissioner was highly critical of the conditions in which child detainees are kept.

Last year the commissioner published a report which stated that children held in the detention centre are denied urgent medical treatment, handled violently and left at risk of serious harm.

Yarl's Wood was opened in November 2001 and was built to hold up to 900 asylum seekers facing deportation.

Since then detainees at the controversial camp have repeatedly gone on hunger strike over their conditions and, in 2002, rioted. In 2004 an Ombudsman report was published into allegations of racism and assault on inmates. The following year, Manuel Bravo, an asylum seeker from Angola, hanged himself while in detention awaiting deportation with his 13 year old son.

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