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4 September 2008

Danielle’s testimony

'Yarl’s Wood is a living hell, especially for children. They don’t have the right kind of milk for

By Staff Blogger

Danielle and Peter were taken to Yarl’s Wood in February 2008, when Peter was 10 months old. In March they were then transferred to Millbank Centre in Ashford, which has been used as an alternative to detention. After a short period at Millbank they were returned to Yarl’s Wood, where they remained until July. They now live in Birmingham.

‘They took us from our home in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the first time they tried though. The first time, we were at a friend’s house and they broke the door down to get in. After that I rang the immigration office to make an appointment for them to visit, but they refused. I didn’t hear anything until they came back a few weeks later. There were 11 of them and three cars. I don’t know if it was instinct, but I was very scared that night and wasn’t sleeping. So I heard them come to my door and let them in. The baby started to cry and I asked if I could change him, but they said I couldn’t, that I had to stay where I was. They packed my things, which meant I couldn’t take what I needed.

They put us in a prison van. Peter didn’t really know what was going on. It was worse when they arrested us the second time. Then Peter knew what was happening and screamed the whole way there. I had never seen him that upset before.

Yarl’s Wood is a living hell, especially for children. They don’t have the right kind of milk for young children. I complained and they said he could drink what they gave us, or drink nothing at all. Peter was very distressed. He wouldn’t sleep at all, but then after a while I realised none of the children in Yarl’s Wood sleep. At about 4 or 5 in the morning you can hear all the children awake.

The people working there don’t treat you like you are human. They were very sarcastic and tried to upset us by saying that we would be sent back any day. They basically just treated everyone like prisoners, children as well. The whole time we were there, nobody explained anything to us.

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There is nothing for children to do in Yarl’s Wood. There is a nursery there, but there was always long queue. I tried to take Peter there loads of times and in the end I gave up because they never had room for him. I found it extremely hard to cope because I was the only person Alastair could play with and I was so depressed, I couldn’t play with him all the time. It was horrible for both of us.

Millbank is awful too. The staff there were verbally abusive to me. They intimidated me every day telling me I had to sign something to go back to my own country. They said that if I didn’t sign their papers, they could treat us in any way they wanted because we weren’t allowed to be in this country. Peter fell off the bed one day and banged his head badly. He was bleeding so I went to reception and asked them to take us to the hospital because Alistair was hurt. The man there just looked at me like I was a piece of wood and didn’t do anything so in the end I just had to dress Peter’s wound myself.

I couldn’t believe it when they took us from Millbank to Yarl’s Wood again. I thought that they were going to let us go then. That was the hardest part, I just felt despair.

Since we came back to Birmingham things have not been so bad. It’s not easy, but at least I can feed and look after my child.