On Saturday, a number of No Borders activists from Nottingham joined about 150 others in marching from Bedford town centre to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Yarl’s Wood is part of the UK Border Agency’s immigration detention gulag where migrants are held in prison-like conditions, often for years, without ever having been charged with a crime. Yarl’s Wood is particularly controversial because it specialises in the incarceration of families of migrants and women. The demonstration called for an end to indefinite immigration detention, an end to ‘fast-track’ deportations of migrants, an end to medical abuse and detention of victims of rape and torture, an end to the use of violence within the immigration system and a stop to the expansion of Yarl’s Wood and the ‘detention estate’.
Perhaps because we had the biggest banner, the Nottingham contingent found ourselves at the front of the march (often asking locals which way we had to go!) It was a long walk (over 5 miles) to the detention centre and we regretted bringing the big banner at times! Perhaps unsurprisingly, we encountered some hostility in the village of Clapham, the nearest habitation to the detention centre. It is likely that many of the workers at the detention centre live in the area. However, we made a strong and defiant stand against the degrading and dehumanising immigration system that reigns in this country. Outside the gates of Yarl’s Wood we heard moving testimonies from former inmates and, via speaker phone, from people inside. We must continue to show solidarity with those who are criminalised for having crossed borders and continue to take action against the Home Office and companies like Serco, who run Yarl’s Wood.