A YARL’S WOOD detainee revealed yesterday how treatment by officers had improved since a campaign to shut the detention centre started.
Juliet Akao’s comments followed a hundreds-strong protest outside the infamous all-female “immigration removal centre” on Saturday, in which an outer ring of wire fencing surrounding the jail was torn down by human-rights campaigners. “The treatment is better, and even the way [the staff] are behaving towards us is better,” Ms Akao told the Star.
The protest, organised by campaigns such as Liberty and Movement for Justice (MFJ), “felt very supportive” to detainees.
Ms Akao, who helped organise a parallel protest inside Yarl’s Wood, said: “The girls were very overwhelmed with the number of people that came.” As an example of how attitudes had changed in the centre she said: “After the protest someone decided to play a disco, just to relieve the stress.
“Because the girls were very quite worried about what was going to happen after the protest, so what they did was played some music in the hall and some girls went to dance. Not very many of them, just a handful.”
Another protest is set to take place this coming Thursday, when detainees will sport “We are not animals” T-shirts throughout the day.
“Uniting together in here is very important,” said Ms Akao, who has been held at the centre facing deportation to Uganda for the last three months. “We try to help each other, that’s what we do.”
The campaign to shut down the centre has grown in the last few years after a series of cases of sexual abuse and racist aggression came to light. Saturday’s protest, MFJ spokeswoman Karen Doyle said: “It was a historic moment in the fight to end detention, the biggest-ever demonstration at Yarl’s Wood and the first to tear down its perimeter fence.
“Hearing the women inside cheering when the hated fence they see every day from their windows was ripped down and trampled over by hundreds of protesters was deeply inspiring and moving.
“The organisation, determination and the fight that detainees wage every day against this racist system is why we demonstrate a nd why we know we can win.
“We left chanting ‘We will be back’ and we will, on August 8 and as long as it takes to tear down those fences and walls once and for all.”