Anna Rjabova and Lillija Jezdovska are brave fighters for their own freedom and for the rights and freedom of their fellow detainees in the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre, near Bedford. On Thursday 9th April they were part of an integrated group of African, Caribbean and East European women who gathered to physically block the deportation of Lucy N, a victim of torture from Kenya. The women gathered together, sitting around Lucy, linking arms and singing.
That afternoon 30+ ‘guards’ employed by Serco (the private company that manages Yarl’s Wood) forced their way into Lucy’s room, wearing full riot gear and armed with batons. You can hear the moment the guards entered the room and dragged the women away here, there were 3 guards for every woman. Anna, Lillija and four other women were handcuffed and taken to Kingfisher wing, the isolation block within Yarl’s Wood.
Anna and Lillija had been brutally beaten on their legs with a baton by one of the guards, Jo Singh, against whom Lillija had previously made official complaints. Anna had to be taken to Bedford hospital for treatment on Saturday. They have made further complaints and have spoken to the Prison Inspectors currently visiting Yarl’s Wood.
Lucy’s deportation was cancelled and the other women have been taken out of isolation, but Anna and Lillija have now been in the Kingfisher unit for a week. Lillija was prevented from going to a scheduled bail hearing on Monday. On Wednesday they were told that they will shortly be moved to prisons. The Home Office and Serco refuse to tell them why they have been singled out.
Anna and Lillija are both ethnic Russians from Latvia who have lived in Britain for many years. Lillija is married to an EU (Austrian) citizen and has three children living here, aged from 7 to 17. They both served short sentences for minor shoplifting offences and served prison sentences. After their sentences were complete they were moved to Yarl’s Wood and have spent nearly a year detained there. As a result their mental health has been affected and both have a recent history of self-harm.
They are being sent to prison as part of a cover up of brutality.
They are being victimised for their resistance to the inhuman, racist detention system and their solidarity with fellow detainees of all races.
Note from Rabble: Movement for Justice are asking people to contact officials asking for their release from prison. See here for details