Sunday, 21 June 2009

"Immigration centre detainees stage hunger strike over inadequate medical care"

Written by Emma Ginn
By Daily Mail Reporter, 16th June 2009

"Around 20 people were on hunger strike at an immigration detention centre today in protest against inadequate medical care, a group of detainees said.

Melchior Singo, 39 and originally from Malawi, said inmates in the family unit at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire stopped eating yesterday morning.

They are protesting against what they claim is sub-standard health care and the detention of children at the site.
Yarl's Wood

The UK Borders Agency confirmed that some inmates at Yarl's Wood were refusing meals, but said the situation was under control

A spokeswoman for the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) said detainees had access to snack bars and that the situation was 'under control', and insisted that medical facilities were as good as the NHS.

Susanna Kushaba, from Uganda, raised concerns about her five-month old son Sean when his temperature shot up earlier this month.

She claims medical staff at the centre ignored her, and she was forced to dial 999 to get her son examined.

The 26-year-old said: 'He was really sick and he'd never been in that condition before. I tried telling the staff, and the staff were calling the health care but no one was coming.'

Epileptic Siddika Suloojee, 37, has not received proper care for her condition, it is claimed, and Mr Singo said when she fell from her bed staff told her she was 'faking it'.

Sophia Cherbal, 29, who suffers from depression, was left without any medication at all after staff said they would alter her drugs because she is two months' pregnant.

Her husband Ismail, 34, from Algeria, said: 'She's not been eating properly and now she won't go to see the healthcare staff. When she was arrested they took her off her medication. Then they found she was pregnant and they said they would give her something that would not harm the baby, but we have heard nothing from them.'

Mr Singo's nine-year-old daughter Olger was referred to an orthodontist before they were imprisoned but has now been denied further treatment.

Children's Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green has called for an end to the detention of children

He said: 'Medical attention is not given as a priority. We've got medical healthcare but we don't get the right care that we need. If you fall ill after lunch you can't see the nurse, even if it's urgent, until the following day.'

The detainees are also protesting against children being held at the centre.
Solomon Ojehonmon, 38, from Nigeria, said: 'It's not good for us as families to be detained in here. This is the most famous free society in the world and there should not be a place like this where they detain children.'

In April, following a visit to Yarl's Wood, Children's Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green called for an end to the detention of children before deportation.

He found that every year nearly 2,000 children were locked up solely for administrative reasons and that the length of time they were being held was on the increase.

According to the UKBA Yarl's Wood has 121 family beds, along with 284 single female beds, and there is a healthcare centre on-site with a small in-patient ward.

A spokeswoman for the UKBA said: 'A small number of detainees at Yarl's Wood have refused meals since lunch-time yesterday. Some are accessing snacks through the night cafe and children are obtaining additional snacks in classrooms in the day. The situation is under control and we are discussing with detainees their concerns.

'Our centres have been praised by independent monitors and our medical care is as good as on the NHS. There is 24-hour nursing care, doctors on call night and day, and access to social workers and dentists.'"

Guardian : "Hunger strike at Yarl's Wood detention centre" - 18/06/09

"Detainees protest at sub-standard healthcare and the detention of children.

At least 30 detainees at the Yarl's Wood detention centre have been on hunger strike since Monday in protest at poor conditions at the Bedfordshire site.

Melchior Singo, 39, from Malawi, said people in the family unit had stopped eating in protest at the sub-standard healthcare and the detention of children. The action began on Monday.

One detainee, Solomom Ojeheonmon, said: "Children, some of them as young as five months old, in this detention centre, are sick."

In April, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children's commissioner, said the government's policy of holding 2,000 children a year in removal centres could be harmful to their health. "The UK should not be detaining any child who has had an unsuccessful asylum claim," he said.

Susanna Kushaba, from Uganda, raised concerns when her five-month-old baby developed a temperature. She claims staff ignored her and she was forced to dial 999 to gain medical attention. "I tried telling the staff and the staff were calling the healthcare but no one was coming."

Dr Frank Arnold, clinical director of Medical Justice, said: "We are not at all surprised by these complaints." He said he agreed with MP Alistair Burt, who described Yarl's Wood as "beyond comprehension and decency"."

Article on Guardian website

BBC : "Fire at immigration removal unit" (Brook House) - 13/06/09

"Brook House was opened in March and can house 426 people

A fire was started and "disorder" broke out at a wing of an immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport, Sussex police said.

Officers said there were reports of minor damage and a blaze in the exercise yard at Brook House, which houses 312 people awaiting deportation.

No-one is believed to be hurt and the fire is said to have burnt itself out.

The force said "disorder" involving 30 detainees started at about 2250 BST and was confined to one wing.

Officers were called in to support security firm G4S.

'No risk'

G4S, with the help of HM Prison Service, currently manages the welfare of detainees inside the centre, the police said.

Ch Insp Ed Henriet, of Gatwick Police, said: "Sussex Police is supporting the security arrangements. All detainees are accounted for and there is no risk to the wider community."

West Sussex Fire Rescue Service has also been monitoring the fire at Brook House.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith opened Brook House, which can house up to 426 people, in March.

It is situated next to Tinsley House, a 136-bed detention centre."

Article on BBC website

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