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Modern slavery survivor’s horror in U.K. immigration detention centers

  • Published on
    December 14, 2022
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  • Category:
    Law & Policy, Survivor Stories
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“It was like a prison. […] It was traumatic. There were high walls, barbed wires, cameras everywhere. Everywhere you went there were locked doors.” – Jasmine (not her real name)

Speaking to openDemocracy, Jasmine shares the awful conditions she faced when locked up in immigration detention centers around the U.K., with her latest detention in Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre despite the Home Office being aware of her experiences as a modern slavery survivor.

Shuttled around the U.K.

Derwentside is the fourth center Jasmine had been held in during her 13 months in the U.K. She first arrived in the country early last year to visit a friend but upon arrival, her luggage was confiscated and she was promptly transferred to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. Then, after a few days, she was moved again to Yarl’s Wood where reports of sexual abuse and mistreatment are common.

Jasmine recalls not being fed properly from her time in Yarl’s Wood “There was only a small amount of food to eat – for example, a piece of chicken and a few potatoes – at mealtimes. It was like you were begging them for food. Everywhere you go, there is an officer behind you.”

Anna Picherri, an organiser with Movement for Justice, an immigration rights group, compared the treatment of women in immigration detention centers as “mental torture”. She said:

“Everything that happened to them – lack of care, mental torture, racial abuse by guards, violence, sexual assaults, and denial of legal assistance and healthcare – was done to break them and make them not to fight for themselves.”

Detained as a modern slavery survivor

Eventually Jasmine was released on bail only to be exploited by a man she knew. She wasn’t aware at the time that she was a victim of modern slavery. Earlier this year, she was detained again due to an issue on her visa application and sent to Derwentside.

This has damaged Jasmine’s mental health, exacerbated her trauma and is preventing her from recovering from her experiences.

A report published earlier this month by the U.K.’s prison watchdog found that vulnerable women continue to be detained despite the serious damage it causes to their health.

Picherri said: “There is no humane detention. The only humane demand and fight are to shut them all down.”

In the U.K. there’s not even a time limit on how long a survivor a can be held in immigration detention causing “immeasurable and unnecessary harm.

Detention of trafficking survivors is inhumane and risks seriously exacerbating survivors’ “physical, psychological and social recovery, it may also result in accumulative trauma, suicidal behaviour and post-traumatic stress disorder.” The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons has explicitly called for potential and confirmed victims of trafficking to be removed from prison-like settings.

It is unacceptable that survivors are not only being denied the support they need to recover but are also having their freedom stripped away a second time.

Sign the petition today and join the global call on governments to stop detaining trafficking survivors and release all potential and confirmed survivors from detention.


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