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4 September 2008

Juliet’s testimony

'I hated to see my baby being locked up. They put you in one tiny room and there is not even a bed

By Staff Blogger

Ugandan-born Juliet came to the UK six years ago. She lives with her two year old daughter in London. She was sent to Yarl’s Wood twice, once in January 2006 for 5 months, and again in September 2007 for 2 months. When she was released from Yarl’s Wood, she was told by Social Services she could no longer live in her flat. Since then she and her daughter have been sleeping on a friend’s floor. They are awaiting accommodation and a decision on their asylum application.

“I’ve been in Yarl’s Wood twice. The first time I was pregnant, and I was there for five months. They don’t make any allowances for you being pregnant, they don’t give a damn. In September last year they came again to my house, they started banging very hard, like there was a criminal in the house and broke down my door. My baby was one and a half. Nine people came to my house, and two police cars, they were mainly men. I was very scared and my baby was screaming. I didn’t let them touch her. I couldn’t get her anything to eat and they wouldn’t even let me take some milk. They said I had to come as I was, in my pyjamas, they didn’t let me pack for me or the baby.

We didn’t go straight to Yarl’s Wood because my application hadn’t been turned down. We went to their offices where I rang my lawyer. He said they couldn’t send me to Yarl’s Wood, because my application was still pending. They turned it down there and then.

When we finally got to Yarl’s Wood my child was very hungry. I managed to grab a bottle of cold milk and I asked them to warm it for me. They refused. They didn’t say a word, they just looked at me like I wasn’t a human being. She was too young to drink milk like that.

You have to sit and wait a long time, my child went without food the whole night and day. A one and a half year old – what kind of punishment is that?

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I hated to see my baby being locked up. They put you in one tiny room and there is not even a bed for the baby. The mattress is very uncomfortable and as I couldn’t sleep my baby couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t eat much at all, they said they didn’t have the right milk for her age. It was ridiculous. They don’t have any of the right facilities. The older children maybe have it worse, they deny them education and they have nothing to do.

My baby was very unwell and I didn’t have any medicine for her. They took it off me. She got a bacterial infection in her bottom, which became raw and painful. She couldn’t wear nappies or trousers. It was awful for me because I wanted to help my baby and I couldn’t. No one cared. They do have a medical clinic, but you can’t see a doctor without an officer there. They don’t believe what you say.

They tried to put us on a flight. My solicitor got it cancelled but they came for us anyway. My solicitor said to go with them because they wouldn’t be able to put us on the plane. I didn’t want to go but I was so scared I had to. People I know have been hit – hit very badly – if they didn’t do what they said. They separated me and my baby. That was so difficult, she cried the whole way there. At the airport, they got the call to say it had been cancelled and they had to take us back. They treated us in an awful way, like I wasn’t a person. It is a great shame that Britain treats people like that, and a lot of people don’t even know what is really going on. You expect more from a country like Britain.

I’d like to study. I’ve completed my nursing access course. I might one day be able to study to be a nurse but I’m losing hope now. Luckily my baby is too young to remember what happened, but I worry how it has affected her. It is awful for the mother, because you want to protect your child but there is nothing you can do.

I would like to give a message. To all those people who are willing to help. It doesn’t matter what position you are in. People are locked up, and they are very scared. Any little thing you can do, anything at all, it does make a difference to people’s lives.