Why does the English government hate Black Jamaican woman, Pauline Taylor-French?

Graham French and Pauline Taylor-French

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? Pauline Taylor-French is now 45 years old. At the age of 28, Pauline Taylor-French found herself in an abusive relationship, took her two daughters and fled Jamaica. She went to England, where she has lived, and thrived, for 17 years. For 17 years, Pauline Taylor-French lived `legally’ in England on a series of student visas. A few years ago, she met Graham French. Soon after, they established a home together. They became engaged. In 2017, Pauline Taylor and Graham French were engaged and making their wedding plans. Then, in September 2017, Pauline Taylor was taken to Yarl’s Wood, where she was detained for 24 days. Pauline Taylor and Graham French have since married. Pauline Taylor-French is married to a citizen of the United Kingdom. Both of Pauline Taylor-French’s grandmothers were British citizens. Pauline Taylor’s grandfather fought with the Royal Navy in World War II. None of that seems to matter. Why does none of that matter? Why does the English government go out of its way to demonstrate its hatred for Pauline Taylor-French?

While in Yarl’s Wood for 24 days, Pauline Taylor-French lost 14 pounds. She engaged in self harm. She was put on suicide watch. Reflecting on their situation, Graham French says, “Why are they treating us like this? All her family are here, they have settled status, she has British grandparents, she’s married to me I’m a British citizen, we meet all the criteria for a spouse visa. She almost died when she was detained, being sent to Jamaica could kill her.”

Being sent to Jamaica could kill her. As far as the English government is concerned, that’s fine. Pauline Taylor-French was never meant to survive: “Where an application has been refused and a person has no legal basis to remain in the UK, they should make arrangements to leave.” If being in Jamaica kills her, that’s Pauline Taylor-French’s fault. The Home Office is only following orders.

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? A year ago, we asked why the English government hates 59-year-old Yvonne Williams and 64-year-old Yvonne Smith, both originally Jamaican and both with no ties left in Jamaica? Two years ago, we asked why the English government hates 61-year old Paulette Wilson, born in Jamaica and with no ties left in Jamaica? Nine years ago, we asked why the English government hates Jamaican born asylum seekers Denise McNeill, 35 years old, and Shellyann Stupart, at that time both involved in a hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood.

In 2014, we asked why the English government hates 40-year-old Jamaican born Christine Case. Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners said Christine Case was denied medical assistance. Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains.  Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claimed they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” Ask Christine Case.

That was 2014. In 1993, immigration officers killed 40-year-old Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. Joy Gardner had applied for compassionate leave to remain in England. She had no idea that her appeal had been denied. The police showed up and opened fire. Twenty years later, Joy Gardner’s mother, Myrna Simpson, says, simply, “We need justice for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.” Who remembers Joy Gardner? Who remembers Christine Case?

These Jamaican born women are surrounded and embraced by Black and Brown sisters from across the Global South and East: Evenia Mawongera, from Zimbabwe; Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari, from Botswana; Lazia NabbanjaErioth MwesigwaBetty Tibikawa, from Uganda; Kelechi ChiobaAderonke Apata, from Nigeria; Lydia Besong, from Cameroon; Dianne Ngoza, from the DRC; Mabel Gawanas, from Namibia; Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf, from Somalia; Chennan Fei, from China; Shiromini Satkunarajah, from Sri Lanka; Irene Clennell, from Singapore; Bita Ghaedi, from Iran; Azbaa Dar, from Pakistan. So many named, so many unnamed. This is but a sliver of the empire of hatred being constructed by immigration regimes, in England, the United States, Australia, and beyond. Why does England hate Pauline Taylor-French?

This week the Home Office gave Pauline Taylor-French a 30-month stay… and then what? Two years of intense struggle, fear, anxiety, terror do not just go away, nor are they meant to. Too often have we asked why this State or that State hates this Black woman or that Brown woman. The time for questions is over. It’s time, way past time, to turn down the walls, to end the terror, to reckon with the hatred of women of color, to confront the policies that are today’s iteration of empire as genocide. “They should make arrangements to leave.”

Christine Case

(Photo Credit 1: Shropshire Star) (Photo Credit 2: BBC)

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood. Nothing to be seen here; move along; just another Jamaican woman in Yarl’s Wood. “One more dead body behind the walls of Britain’s detention centres.” One more dead woman. That’s all.

Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners tell a different story. They say Christine Case was denied medical assistance. It’s also been claimed that local National Health Service doctors who offered assistance to distressed prisoners after Case’s death were turned away.

Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claims they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” And yet … Christine Case is dead.

Some say Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and that the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains. Not for severe pains, and especially not for severe chest pains.

Emma Mlotshwa, of Medical Justice, noted: “We are shocked but not surprised to hear of this tragic death. Any death in immigration detention is avoidable as immigration detention is optional. Our volunteer independent doctors have seen an alarming number of incidents of medical mistreatment. The only thing we are surprised about is that there have not been more deaths.”

People have questions. The immigration minister promises, yet again, yet another investigation.

Meanwhile, Yarl’s Wood is in lockdown. Yarl’s Wood is a house of women’s fear and women’s mourning … and women’s solidarity.

Four years ago, almost to the day, women prisoners, asylum seekers all, at Yarl’s Wood organized a massive hunger strike. 35-year-old Jamaican asylum seeker Denise McNeil was identified as a `ringleader’, moved to another prison, and placed in solitary. The Yarl’s Wood women hunger strikers took the calculus of violence and turned it on its head. They said they are better than that, they are women, fighters used to fighting, peacemakers used to making peace, and no one decides that it is right for them to be slaughtered.

The world paid attention … for a minute.

Twenty-one years ago immigration officers killed Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. What has changed since then? The killing now takes place behind walls and bars.

For some, the handling of women asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood `puts the UK to shame.’ It does, but it does more than that. It shames the world, where this is the allotted fate for far, far too many women. Black women. Immigrant women. Women.  A woman died that night.

 

(Photo Credit: Handout / BBC)

We can’t talk to the imprisoned women, but we can chant with them

 


Saturday, 5th of March 2011

It is wet and foggy in the fields of Bedfordshire and our shoes fill with mud as we walk away from the group of policemen that have followed us in a circle along the fences of Yarl’s Wood migrants’ detention centre. This Saturday, the 5th March, as women demonstrate in London at the start of International Women’s Week, a group of migrant rights, no border and feminist activists travel to Bedford to bring our solidarity to the migrant women (and men) detained in Yarl’s Wood. We manage to reach the women locked in one of the units. At a distance, we can’t talk to the imprisoned women, but we can chant with them. We cannot hear exactly what they say but one message arising across the barbed wires is simple, loud and clear: ‘freedom, we want freedom’.

Yarl’s Wood is one of the seven privately run ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ in the UK, detaining ‘irregular migrants’ on behalf of the UK Border Agency. Initially the building accommodated 900 people in two blocks, making it the largest immigration prison in Europe. In February 2002 the capacity of the centre was reduced after one of the buildings was burnt down during a protest organized by detainees against staff harassment. At present the centre is composed of 4 units ‘hosting’ about 400 people.

In February of last year, the situation in the removal centre again exploded. The horrible conditions of detention were denounced by migrant detainees as some women decided to start a hunger strike demanding an end to indefinite and abusive imprisonment. In an attempt to end their protest, the management subjected many of the women to violent attacks and various forms of punishment. At that time six women detainees, accused of being ‘ring-leaders’, were moved into isolation and prisons.

On the 25th January, after almost a year in Holloway prison, Denise McNeil, one of the `leaders’, was granted bail at an immigration court. Two women still remain in jail without charge: Aminata Camara and Sheree Wilson. Activists from the campaign to Free the Yarl’s Wood 3, including members of No One is Illegal, No Borders, Crossroads Women’s Centre, Communities of Resistance, Stop Deportation Network and members of the RMT, filled the court for Denise’s bail hearing. They provided an important support and will keep campaigning ‘for Sheree and Aminata and all the people in Yarl’s Wood until the centre will be closed’. (For updates, see Free the Yarl’s Wood 3 campaign Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Denise-Now/174533002581566 and Twitter feed: @freedenisenow. Also see the NCADC site: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/campaigns/DeniseMcNeil.html).

The reasons for the detention of people in centers like Yarl’s Wood are multiple, and sometimes quite different. One of the activists involved in the campaign to support the hunger strikers explained to me that many of the women who end up in detention have already served a prison sentence, often for a minor offence, such as using fake documents to travel or work. Rather than being released, these women are transferred back to detention as a ‘second punishment’ where they wait for their immigration case to be cleared and eventually granted status or deported. They are trapped in an indefinite space of juridical and existential limbo, from one prison to the other, on the grounds that their migration case is still ‘pending’: they cannot be returned to their country of origin (on complex juridical or humanitarian grounds), and yet their status as asylum seekers is not recognized either.

Denise has just been released on bail, and her status, as well as her future stay in the UK, remains uncertain. However, her case shows how important the external support of migrants’ rights activists to sustain legal individual cases can be by helping access legal advice and to build publicity around their otherwise invisible stories.  While it may appear only a small achievement, these forms of solidarity provide the migrant women with encouragement and help instill confidence as they engage in the hard battles for freedom of movement and the right to stay in a country where they have worked and toiled for many years. In many cases the women are ‘caught’ by the UK Border Agency after many years of residence in the country, where they have probably built a family, found work and made a home. This is a typical story for the women detained in Yarl’s Wood.

 

(Photo Credit: Open Democracy / IndyMedia.UK)