Imagine you’re a woman, imagine you’re a victim of sexual assault, sex trafficking, or a mother trying to save your children by giving them a better future, traveling for weeks, in poor conditions on the sea, or cramped on a ship or a van.
‘England, where we can be free, where human rights are served, where we can start a better future, where we will access women’s rights that we are denied.’
This was a dream for many women who migrated to the UK, but instead of a better future, they have ended up in Detention Centres.
The play Tanja, performed by Emily Ntshangase-Wood an ex Yarl’s Wood detainee, follows the several stories of detentions in yarl’s wood, stories that Emily either lived or witnessed.
The performance gives us an idea of what life inside a detention centre looks like, it also brings up very important issues around human rights, immigration, and realities of detention centres. Many people don’t know the first thing about detention centres, and this play does a great job at giving the audience an introduction. The play specifically focuses on the lives of women.
Detention Centres (Or as the government sugar coats them: Immigration removal centres) are a place where immigrants are kept as prisoners, and the aim is for them to either receive the right to remain or to be deported back to the country they lived in previously before entering the UK.
Women’s rights are Human rights
Some people seem to still believe the fight for women’s rights are over, you still hear “We have the vote now, what else do we need?”. Such views are both inaccurate and inconsiderate. Did you know that the UK migration law, tends to protect lives that are in danger because of religious views, political activities, sexual orientation, etc, but it doesn’t protect victims of sexual assault and sex trafficking? Victims of both categories are mainly women, and a country that claims to be all for human rights and women’s rights, fails to acknowledge the importance of protecting those who are looking for safety and risk their lives for it. How can victims of sex trafficking be turned away from safety and sent back into their initial condition, which would cause them even worse treatment or even cost their lives? Yet this happens to many women and we rarely hear about it.
At one point in the play, on a small screen, we see the names of many women, and the duration of their stay at the centres, women from across the world, as young as 19 or as old as 70, having their rights denied.
Many trans immigrants chose to move to the England. But does England make an effort to protect them? Trans lives are in danger in the whole world. England might seem in favour of LGBT rights, however, trans folk risk their lives leaving the house, even in a place like London. We hear more and more about trans women who are placed in Men’s prisons as a result of transphobia, who lose their lives or face daily abuse. What happens to Trans immigrants who left their countries and families, in the hopes of a safe future, but instead end up in a detention centre, quite possibly one for the wrong gender?
Sexual Assault and Violence
It is a known fact that most women in prisons and detention centres face sexual violence. Detention centres are placed in places so far away out of cities, which allows them to stay secret. In such isolated spaces and far away, the chances of the staff getting away with breaking the law is increased. Most women in these detention centres, do not speak English or do not know their rights, they are scared of speaking out, so how are they protected from sexual assault? Do they ever receive any help when violence has occured?
There is hope: Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary
MFJ BAMN is an organisation with a vision to “ build a new Britain: diverse, integrated and equal. We aim to win. We tell the truth about racism, sexism and anti-gay bigotry and the growing inequalities within our society.” They organise protests against Yarl’s wood, with a hope to #ShutDown YarlsWood , such demonstrations and protests have managed to shut down a few detention centres such as The Lanarkshire centre. But there is still more to be done:
Information about the next #YarlsWood Demonstrations:
More information about Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary :
SoN’s photo essay from the last Yarl’s wood demo: