On 6 December at 2pm Ms Jane Uyi was physically assaulted and verbally abused by several SERCO guards during one of their routine monthly searches of women’s rooms.
Ms Uyi and her room mate were body searched by two male officers and one female officer. Their room was then ransacked. An officer known as Clifford was threatening and abusive and called her an “illegal immigrant and a prostitute” breaching her confidentiality by revealing aspects of her asylum claim to other women and officers present. Deeply upset at the ferocity and viciousness of the officers, Ms Uyi shouted back and demanded that he put the room straight. The woman officer began to help but was prevented by Clifford who called for back up from his manager. On arrival instead of asking what had happened, the manager and two officers bent both Ms Uyi’s hands back, and pressed her against the wall. They pulled out some of her hair. Several of the other women who had come to the room on hearing the disturbance saw what was happening. One tried to defend Ms Uyi but was pushed away.
Ms Uyi was taken to Kingfisher wing (the isolation cells)by six guards and a manager, while other guards made sure that everyone was locked in their rooms so that no one was able to see her. From Monday afternoon until Tuesday lunchtime Ms Uyi was denied food and kept in a very cold room. She called the police using her mobile. They came but said because there was no blood showing they would not investigate. She was finally released back onto another wing having spent over 48 hrs in isolation. She has since been moved to Bunting Wing.
Ms Uyi said that “room searches have never been like this before. They used to put all my stuff back. I feel like I am being targeted. They shouted about details of my case in front of everyone”.
Ms Uyi has been in detention for over 11 months. She has made an asylum claim based on having been forced into prostitution in Nigeria in 1999, and was trafficked into Britain in 2004. When she escaped her trafficker, she fled to Cardiff where she lived for one year before being arrested for working without legal documents.
This is not the only incident of this kind: Sophia Robinson who resisted an attempted removal described G4 guards brutality,
“On 5th October 2010 I was taken to the Gatwick airport by G4s escorts and beaten by two males and a female because they wanted to handcuff me. They knelt on me, pushed and squeezed me, leaving me with a lot of cuts and bruises and scars which bled for two days. All of this happened in their vehicle, so no one could see or hear me screaming . . . I want to be heard by the public, because detainees are not treated humanly and fairly”.
Today, her room mate received a text saying that Ms Robinson had been taken in handcuffs by four security guards to hospital, for a prearranged operation. She said that Ms Robinson has been traumatised by this callous treatment.
Other women were reluctant to go public as they rightly feared retribution – one has already been deported illegally, as she was not given 72 hrs notice.
Most women who contact us from Yarl’s Wood are rape survivors and mothers. They are up against guards who can get away with brutal and abusive treatment and the authorities who have the power to prevent women from speaking and to deport women before they can get justice. SERCO and BA must be made accountable for the actions of their staff and sack those responsible for violating women’s rights.