Migrant women & detention centres

This article is part of the NCAFC Women & Non-Binary zine being distributed at this week’s NUS Women’s Conference. You can find the whole zine here.

By Hansika Jethnani

shut yarls woodThe UK has one of the largest detention and prison systems in the world; coupled with their inhumane and racist border policies. Many detention centers, like Yarls’ Wood are predominantly occupied by women; women who have done nothing wrong, they have simply just claimed asylum and are waiting to hear back. Many have also lived here for years and have family here. Its existence shows that many migrants who arrive in the UK are locked away like criminals. The rhetoric in the media that sees innocent people labelled ‘swarms’, ‘illegal’ and ‘cockroaches’ is what makes it permissible for society to imprison them and it should come as no surprise that women and children are at particular risk from harsh immigration laws, and the ones that face the most brutality. It’s been known that the women detained in the centre have repeatedly reported allegations of sexual assault against the staff.

The existence of detention centers however, also equates to the government’s’ inability and refusal to address the reasons many migrants leave their lives behind to come to the UK in the first place. While some flee unjust laws against LGBTQ people, many flee due to economic and political situations in their countries that have everything to do with colonisation and the rise of global inequality as a consequence.

In the same way, prison serves as an institution that consolidates the failure and refusal of governments across the world to address the socio-economic inequalities within our societies; leaving those most marginalised like women of colour, women with disabilities and trans women trapped by the violence of poverty.

Over the years, from the dismantling of social services, the rise of global capitalism and global inequality, prison and detention emerged as a institutions to address problems that were produced by deindustrialization, lack of jobs, less funding into education, lack of education, colonisation and the closedown of systems that were designed to assist people who have mental health difficulties.

G4S, a private security corporation is the third-largest private corporation in the world. It engages in the ownership and operation of private prisons, private policing and many other activities related to policing and surveillance and imprisonment. The existence of corporations like G4S who are endorsed and hired by governments’ show that states believe security can only be achieved by violence, whether structural or actual; and stops them from dealing with the actual problems.

Prison abolition is only achievable by states shifting resources to healthcare and education systems and removing the violence of poverty; essentially by smashing capitalism. Detention abolition is only conceivable by admitting and addressing the link between colonisation and global inequality, and propositioning freedom of movement as a right for all. As Angela Davis so rightfully said, ‘we have to think about what in the long run will produce decarceration, fewer people behind bars, and hopefully, eventually, in the future, the possibility of imagining a landscape without prisons, where other means are used to address issues of harm, where social problems, such as illiteracy and poverty, do not lead vast numbers of people along a trajectory that leads to prison’. An anti capitalist feminism means abolitionist feminism – means the end to detention and prison. It is so imperative that we get involved with Movement For Justice, go to protests at Yarls’ Wood, stand in solidarity with migrant women and continue talking about abolitionist feminism. The need to end detention and prison goes hand in hand with smashing capitalism, and we must continue the fight for both.

Read the rest of the zine here