Globe, Struggles, United Kingdom, Workers

Inside Yarl’s Wood: powerlessness and humiliation

These are the words used by Mabel Gawanas in an interview with The Prisma to describe her time at the detention centre. After being detained for three years, she will be attending the protest on 3 December as a show of solidarity with those who are still inside.


Mabel Gawanas -Photo by Marcos Ortiz

Juanjo Andrés Cuervo


Yarl’s Wood has been surrounded by controversy since it opened in 2001 due to the inhumane living conditions of its detainees.

As a result, it is the most notorious detention centre in the UK, and a number of newspapers have reported on what has happened behind its walls.

Mabel Gawanas, who was detained there and will attend the protest, gave an interview to The Prisma, in which she explains the different experiences and obstacles she had to overcome before being freed. She was detained for three years and separated from her now eight-year-old daughter.

A report published by ‘Legal Action for Women’ in 2005 stated that 70% of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood were victims of abuse and other forms of violence before being detained.

These issues have led to numerous protests being held outside the detention centre, and this particular demonstration will be the twelfth organised by ‘Movement for Justice’, and will be joined by women who have been sent into exclusion here.

In addition, the reports “Detained” and “I am human”, disclose that the majority of women detained in this type of detention centre are seeking asylum, having suffered sexual abuse and violence in their home countries.

After overcoming these problems, the women then face further psychological and emotional trauma as a result of being detained, the report highlights.

Both reports were published by ‘Women for Refugee Women’, which has recently published another “We Are Still Here”, which discloses disturbing data on the health of the women detained.

In statistical terms, 88% of these women state that their mental health has deteriorated during their time in the prison, and almost half have considered suicide.

This news comes despite government legislation introduced last year, “Adults at Risk”, which aims to prevent the detention of persons who are classified as vulnerable.

Nonetheless, the report released by ‘Women for Refugee Women’ shows that in reality, the legislation is far from achieving its objective.

In fact, “We Are Still Here” reveals that the Home Office continues to detain vulnerable women on a routine basis. Apparently, when the women speak out about their experiences, they are either not believed or detained regardless.

After 16 years of detentions at this centre, “Movement for Justice”, which aims to defend these rights of these women and in particular of those most vulnerable, returns once more to stage a protest outside the doors of Yarl’s Wood.

Date and time: 3 December at 1 pm; address: Yarl’s Wood, Twinwoods Business Park, Thurleigh Road, Milton Ernest, Bedford MK44 1FD ; contact: More information here.

(Translated by Eleanor Gooch) – Photos: Pixabay


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