Government lays flawed torture definition before Parliament as Yarl's Wood protests continue

Freedom from Torture receives message from Yarl's Wood detainee detailing planned protests against the detention of torture survivors as the Government lays plans to put the flawed torture definition, which will lead to more survivors being detained, before Parliament.

Yesterday Freedom from Torture received a message from a woman detained behind the high walls and locked doors of Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre. We can’t give you her name or tell you about her circumstances but we will pass on her message.

She told us that she and her fellow detainees are holding a sit-in protest today, “against some of the worst practices of the Home Office.” Among their demands is a call for the Home Office to stop detaining torture survivors.

These women arrived in the UK hoping to secure refuge from the torture and persecution they fled in their country of origin. Instead of sanctuary, they now endure the torment of indefinite detention and face the continuing threat that they will be forcibly deported to the countries and situations they fled.

I am currently detained in Yarl's Wood protesting against some of the worst practices of the Home Office. We have released a list of demands and among them is the release of torture, trafficking, gender-based violence victims among other vulnerable people that continue not only to be detained indefinitely, but also deported to the situations they escaped in the first place, I would like to inform you that we will be holding a sit-in to protest the specific point of detaining torture victims.

Yarlswood Detainee

Freedom from Torture has been campaigning for years to prevent the detention of torture survivors. Ironically, the Home Office has a policy – the Adults at Risk policy - that states that there is a presumption against the detention of vulnerable people including, but not limited to, torture survivors, victims of sexual or gender-based violence, trafficking or modern slavery, and those suffering a mental health condition. Yet a recent report by the Independent Inspector of Prisons of Harmondsworth immigration removal centre found that many identified torture survivors continue to be detained.

We are extremely concerned that the Home office has drafted a new definition of torture for the purpose of their Adults at Risk policy, which will make it more likely that torture survivors will be detained. This is despite a previous High Court judgment that ruled that the original definition used in the Adults at Risk policy was resulting in the unlawful detention of survivors. You can read our letter to the Home Secretary protesting against the way the new definition was drafted behind closed doors, signed by nearly 20,000 people.

These women arrived in the UK hoping to secure refuge from the torture and persecution they fled in their country of origin. Instead of sanctuary, they now endure the torment of indefinite detention and face the continuing threat that they will be forcibly deported to the countries and situations they fled.

Yesterday the new, flawed definition was laid before Parliament. We will be fighting alongside our parliamentary champions to ensure this definition does not come into force.

Our Chief Executive Sonya Sceats says:

“Yesterday, the Government ignored the urgent demand of almost 20,000 Freedom from Torture supporters. It laid its new definition of torture within its critically flawed Adults at Risk policy and Rule 35 process before Parliament.

The new definition is needlessly complex and engages vague concepts that have no clinical or legal foundation. We fear that it will be unworkable and will result in the detention of torture survivors.

We have a wealth of evidence showing how detention centre staff and Home Office caseworkers already struggle to implement safeguards intended to protect vulnerable people against detention.

Instead of fixing the problem, the Government has raised the bar further and made it more difficult for torture survivors to reach a place of safety and rehabilitation. We will fight alongside parliamentarians and in solidarity with detainees to ensure this definition does not make it into law.”

Freedom from Torture sends our best wishes to the correspondent in Yarl's Wood who messaged us and all the other women detained in Yarl’s Wood who are protesting against injustices.