Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Action Alert: Free Denise McNeil

Photo of Denise's 8 year old son
Source: Free Denise McNeil campaign

Denise McNeil has been held in Holloway Prison since she was accused of being a key organiser in the five-week Yarl's Wood Hunger Strike in February 2010. After having lived in the UK for more than ten years, Denise currently faces the continued threat of forced deportation to Jamaica despite the fact that she fears for her life and that this would leave her two children, aged 8 and 17, behind in the UK.

Denise was arrested in September 2008 for possession of cannabis for personal use. She served a six month prison sentence and was taken into detention on the day of her release. It is now over two years since she has been able to care for her sons, who have suffered immense disruption and trauma due to her prolonged detention.

Denise had removal directions for September 2010, but her flight got cancelled on the day of her scheduled deportation. Since then her future is uncertain, and she is still waiting for the outcome of the judicial review of her case.

Denise’s life is in danger should she return to Jamaica. Her brother was killed in March 2010 following his forced removal from the UK. Denise has also lost a sister and cousin to gang violence in the last few years. Denise knows she would be a target if she returned to Jamaica and does not want to put her sons' lives at risk either.

In February, Denise joined a five-week hunger strike by prisoners at Yarl's Wood immigration prison to end to indefinite and abusive imprisonment. She was among the hunger strikers who were locked in a corridor for more than six hours without access to any facilities by guards attempting to force an end to the protests. She was beaten by guards, put in isolation for four weeks and moved to Holloway prison.

Denise was brave enough to speak about this incidence to the media (see below for Denise's comments in the Guardian) on several occasions and believes that this is why she was isolated and moved to prison where there is no access to a mobile phone.

Denise and two other women remain in prison as retribution for taking part in the hunger strike. Ten months on and Denise has still not received adequate medical treatment for the injuries she sustained from guards during the hunger strike.

“I’ve suffered enough. It’s been 21 months since I’ve been detained by immigration. I’d just like to be released to be with my children to make up for this time lost and to try and fit back into society which I know is going to be hard. To be a mother like I was before this happened - that’s all I want.”
Read Denise's comments in the Guardian:
Fears for health of Yarl's Wood women in third week of hunger strike
About 20 detainees are protesting over indefinite detention and alleged racial and physical abuseAsylum seekers win new strength to fight after Yarl's Wood hunger strike
'We are determined to win justice for the violent and vicious way we were treated,' says mother in family detention centre protest
Could this woman's fight change the way Britain treats asylum seekers?
Most of the desperate mothers who are held at Yarl's Wood are quickly deported: now four of them are taking the Home Office to court, citing violations of their human rights amid nightmarish conditions. Mark Townsend reports
Immigration bosses to be quizzed after asylum seekers were 'beaten' by guards
MPs to investigate claims that women in Yarl's Wood detention centre were physically abused by officers during hunger strike
Why I am on hunger strike at Yarl's Wood
Denise McNeil, one of the detainees at Yarl's Wood, explains why she has been on hunger strike for the last two weeks
What can you do to help?

Denise took action with other women “for everyone in detention” in the hunger strike. Now we need to support her. Help Denise fight for her release and the right to remain with her sons in safety in the UK. Please refer to her Home Office Reference number which is W1015678/8

1) Stay in touch!

Email to let us know you want to be kept up to date and to get details of demonstrations and further actions.
2) Write to the Jamaican High Commission asking them not to facilitate Denise's deportation
His Excellency Anthony S Johnson
Jamaican High Commission
1-2 Prince Consort Road

Fax: 020 7589 5154
3) Write to the Home Secretary
Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Office,
2 Marsham St
London SW1 4DF

Fax: 020 7035 4745
4) Show your solidarity by writing to Denise in Holloway Prison:
Denise McNeil, WT4009
HMP Holloway
Parkhurst Road
N7 0NU

Friday at 4:00pm
HMP Holloway, Parkhurst Rd, London N7 ONU

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