When I asked what the officers were doing with all this situation,
they said there is no officers, cos they all run away. I just couldnt
believe it... I saw that all doors and the gates (we had them along
the whole corridors) were locked. No officers, no police, no fire
brigade or anybody else. Only scared people everywhere...The some
male detainees (mostly black) were trying to get people outside
the building. Cos if it hadnt been for them we would all be
burned in that fire.
- From a woman detained at Yarls Wood during the fire.
Its been over a month since the Yarls Wood Detention
Centre in Bedfordshire burned down, but the true story of what happened
on that day is still no clearer. The governments response
-a promise to toughen up their policies with more detention centres,
increased security, faster removal times for failed asylum seekers,
and reduced access to the judicial system.
Yarls Wood only opened last November -built at an estimated
cost of £100 million and run by Group 4 under licence from
the Home Office. To make asylum seekers feel welcome theyve
installed security equivalent to a category B prison, surrounded
by 16ft high fences topped by razor wire with moving cameras and
microwave detection units to prevent escape. According to the government
the centre is supposed to house failed asylum seekers
facing immediate deportation, yet their own statistics reveal that
only 46 of the 385 detainees at Yarls Wood on the night of
the fire were waiting to be deported.
Ever since the first people were locked up there has been constant
protests about conditions. In January nearly all the detainees,
went on hunger strike for 24 hours, while on the afternoon of 14th
February, the day the fire started, trouble flared after a woman
was handcuffed so she could be taken to hospital. At some point
later a fire started. Its not clear where, although many detainees
believe it started in the reception area to which they have no access.
Shocking stories from those who were inside on the day are only
The incident started when detainees saw a woman aged about
55 being restrained and they were concerned for her safety. Women
were told to stay in their rooms by staff. Families were waiting
in their rooms for Group 4 to tell them what to do. Three hours
later, when they became aware of the fire, and the building started
to fill with smoke and heat, they were still inside waiting.
Exits and doors were locked. There was no evacuation by Group 4.
Detainees got one another out of the burning building. Once outside,
they saw others trapped in their rooms calling for help, unable
to breathe. One man opened his door and found flames outside. Detainees
shouted to Group 4 or the police asking them to help those who were
trapped. With exits being closed, the only way out of the burning
building would have been to try to smash their way through high
security toughened windows which are designed to open only a few
Some detainees tried to put the fire out themselves, but when they
saw they couldnt, they shouted to firemen to come in. Others
said police or Group 4 tried to push them back in to the building,
or blocked their exit when they tried to get out.
Detainees, including a 2 month old baby, were kept outside most
of the night in freezing weather. Bedfordshire County Council had
transport, social facilities including a school available to provide
respite care but they were not used. People were herded around the
site by police/Group 4, who shouted at them and tried to make them
gather near to the burning building on tennis courts. When people
protested, they pushed them on to the unused part of the building.
Whilst Group 4 were busy locking the detainees inside it appears
that fire fighters were being locked out from the burning building.
Had they got they could well have prevented much of the estimated
£38 million of damage. Home Secretary David Blunkett was quick
to blame the fire and the lack of access for the fire fighters,
on the detainees, complaining Having removed asylum seekers
from prison, we now find that our reward is the burning down of
a substantial part of the facility, this is deplorable.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) however are refusing to tow the official
line and have attacked the Home Office and Group 4 for refusing
to install a sprinkler system. Andy Gilchrist from the FBU said
It is clear that [they] have put their private profit before
the lives of asylum seekers thereby treating them as second class
citizens. Group 4 flatly refused to put a sprinkler system into
these premises to cut their costs. Fire fighters who were
at Yarls Wood have also contradicted claims that it was asylum
seeker who stopped them getting in to put out the fire. A spokesman
said None of the fire fighters has a bad word to say against
the asylum seekers, we are only demoralised because we were prevented
from doing our job. In the light of what they saw at Yarls
Wood, the FBU are now calling for the immediate release of all asylum
seekers from detention centres until they can be made safe.
Group 4 is the largest security firm in the world, and are also
involved in Campsfield detention centre. In 1997 after mass protests
at Campsfield, 10 detainees were charged with rioting, but the subsequent
trial collapsed after it became evident that the Group 4 security
guards were lying and had themselves caused criminal damage. No
action was ever brought against the company.
For those who were locked up in Yarls Wood on that night
of the fire 70 have now been transferred to prisons, some of them
are in solitary confinement, although none of them have been charged
with any offence. 19 are still missing, the official line is that
theyve escaped, although it cant be ruled out that they
may have died in the blaze, a detailed forensic investigation of
the site only began late February and is expected to take 2 months.
In what is looking like a massive cover up, access by friends and
relatives to many of those that knew what went on during that day
has been denied, and key witnesses to events have been deported.
Shakir Hussain a solicitor representing some of the asylum seekers,
has already had one client removed without any warning It
seems to me that any potential witnesses were put in segregation
and shipped out as soon as possible.. There is real fear among
campaigners that these moves could stop investigators getting to
* Stop the lies. Demonstrate at Yarls Wood Detention Centre
this Saturday 12 noon till 2.pm Saturday. For directions tel: 07786517379
* Open Borders The Case Against Immigration Controls by
Teresa Hayter (Pluto Press)
We are creators of new technologies
- this time by great financial rewards and global competition -
despite the clear dangers, hardly evaluating what it may be like
to try to live in a world that is the realistic outcome of what
we are creating and imagining. - Bill Joy, chief scientist
and co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
Its being called the next industrial revolution
and with one research institute announcing that hundreds
of three-legged robots the size of a thumb, complete with onboard
computers, powerful microscopes, and biosensors will be ready to
manufacture nano-scale materials by the middle of this year, its
a science coming our way soon.
Welcome to nanotechnology. Once the stuff of science
fiction, nanotechnology now seems the scientists equivalent
But what is a nano? A nanometre is a billionth of
a metre. If you put fifty million nanos side by side theyd
be the width of a human hair. Where biotechnology manipulates genes
to alter their natural molecular composition, nanotechnology aims
to build pretty much anything atom by atom or alter existing structures.
Not surprisingly, the bio-tech and pharmaceutical
corporations, not to mention NASA and the trigger-happy US military,
are busily developing and funding nanotechnologies. (The U.S. Defense
Department announced it would be spending $180 million on it this
The scope and impact of nanotech was brought home
last month by researchers in Spain working with Kraft Foods. They
are developing nano-capsules containing the colour, fragrance, and
taste of tens of thousands of different drinks. The consumer would
buy a generic liquid containing multiple-choice capsules (ranging
from fruit juices to colas to wines and spirits). By exposing these
capsules to different ultrasound or radio frequencies, the desired
concoction would be released. Households would likely need nothing
more sophisticated than a microwave-type device.
This technology is delivering a series of almost magical
inventions that are the most phenomenally lucrative ever seen. Mihail
Roco, the National Science Foundations senior advisor for
nanotechnology warns that, a nano elite could command unlimited
wealth and power while Paul Thompson, a professor of ethics
at Purdue University says There are some disturbing similarities
between biotechnology and nanotechnology. This is a technology that,
once its out there, cant be called back. As Pat
Mooney of ETC group in Canada points out Nanotechnology must
become a serious issue for the Rio+10 summit If governments dont
address it there, we could find ourselves dealing with social and
environmental issues that will make biotech look insignificant.
Maybe thats why one of the most influential figures in computing
Bill Joy wrote in Wired magazine that self-replicating nanobots
are more dangerous than nuclear weapons and urged scientists to
abandon nanotech for the good of mankind.
- To keep up to date with these issues check out the excellent
- The Institute of Nanotechnology will be holding a two day conference
bigging up their new microscopic mates at the Dynamic Earth Centre
in Edinburgh 24-25 April. www.nano.org.uk/dynamicearth.htm
- GM test sites for the coming year have recently been announced
check em out at www.geneticsaction.org.uk
a benefit night for Indymedia UK next Friday (5th) at the
Medusa, Barrington Rd., Brixton with 2 rooms of drum and
bass and house, VJS and a chill out space. Tax is £5/3,
- The Simon
Jones Memorial Campaign are asking groups and individuals
to organise events for a national day of action against temp agencies
that put people before profit on 24th April. To get involved call
01273 685913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Mayday
Festival of Alternatives meeting has been moved to Thursday
4th April at the Union Tavern. Camberwell New Rd and Vassal Rd,
have opened a new website in India to expose the social and environmental
impacts of corporate investment in the country www.corpwatchindia.org
- the website for the Welcome to Manchester event
in last weeks positive SchNEWS should have read www.beyondtv.org/gorton/
- 200 protesters
marched through Swansea at the weekend in a protest aimed
at putting pressure on the Environment Agency to refuse a license
for the Crymln Burrows incinerator www.stic.org.uk
- And on Monday
100 residents in Easton, Bristol brought commuter traffic
to a standstill to demand action about ever-rising levels of street
crime in their area. www.bristol.indymedia.org
- POW (Protect
Our Woodland) who are campaigning to save Titnore Woods near
Worthing are meeting next Tuesday (2nd), Downsview Pub opposite
West Worthing Station, 7:45pm www.worthinga27.freeserve.co.uk
- The Energy
Minister in South Korea is studying how Thatcher dealt
with the miners strike to try and end a five week long strike
by power workers resisting privatisation (thatll teach em).
Thousands of strikers are now facing dismissal for creating a
nice climate of labour unrest just in time for the football World
Neil Bartlett has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for
a series of bomb hoaxes against organisations involved in animal
abuse. Write to him: Neil Bartlett FW7083, HMP Lewes, East Sussex
Jonas Enander has just been given two years and 6 months
for his part in the anti EU protests in Sweden last year. Letters
to Jonas Enander, KVA, Aby-Funbo 755 97 Uppsala, Sweden. To contact
the Gothernburg prisoner solidarity group e-mail: email@example.com
While places like Brighton have to put up with bullshit from developers
about sustainable hotels, sustainable supermarkets and hey while
were at it, why not sustainable motorways, a Zero Energy Development
is nearing completion in Beddington, Sutton near London. The mixed
development of houses and offices will only use energy from renewable
sources generated on site, is cutting water consumption by a third,
reducing transport costs etc. It aims to be a beacon, to show
how we can meet the demand for housing without destroying the countryside.
It shows that an eco-friendly lifestyle can be easy, affordable
and attractive - something that people will want to do. www.bedzed.org.uk
* The occupation of the Harvest Forestry site in New England Road,
Brighton continues with a host of events for the coming Easter weekend.
Including a demo at London Road Sainsburys on Saturday at
2pm. Call the hotline on 01273 622727 to find out whats happening.
FOR A DRINK
Just in case you missed it the 22nd of March was World Water Day.
It was celebrated in South Africa by remembering 260 people who
have died in the recent Cholera epidemic. It started after the city
council in Capetown started cutting off the water supply of people
in townships who couldnt afford to pay for the service.
People who resisted were shot with live ammunition (see SchNEWS
326) Now the council have come up with the brilliant idea of auctioning
off the houses of 400 families who cant pay, leaving them
homeless. Most of the community were dumped in the poor quality
council homes in Mfuleni in 1974, after being forcibly removed from
other parts of the Western Cape under the Group Areas Act of the
Apartheid government. The council homes were later supposed to be
transferred to the tenants. The community agreed in a mass meeting
last week that they would fight the eviction and, as a last resort
reclaim the land they lived on before 1974 rather than become homeless
after this second eviction.
In Bolivia they celebrated World Water Day by acquitting the soldier
that murdered 17 year old Victor Hugo Daza during the protests over
the privatisation of the water system in Cochabamba two years ago
(see SchNEWS286 and 339). Video footage from an independent Bolivian
television network clearly showed Captain Robinson Iriarte de la
Fuente, firing into a crowd of unarmed civilians, fatally wounding
Victor in the head. This footage, seen by people in Bolivia and
around the world, was apparently not considered as evidence at the
trial. As a final insult, after the acquittal he was promoted to
the rank of Major.
In Colombia, another person fighting privatisation has been murdered.
On 20 March, a leader of the Union Sindical Obrera (Oil Workers
Union), Rafael Jaimes Torra, was assassinated by paramilitaries.
He is the eighty-fifth oil workers leader to be assassinated since
1988. To date no one has been prosecuted for any of these crimes.
Rafael was involved in negotiations with the Colombian oil company
Ecopetrol over their plans to privatise the industry. On Monday,
two Ecopetrol workers, Jose Antonio Perez and Hernando Silva Cely,
were abducted in Casanare and its very likely that they will
be tortured and executed. The government is doing nothing to obtain
their release or prevent their deaths. To make helpful suggestions
write to Dr Victor G Ricardo, Embassy of Colombia, Flat 3a, 3 Hans
Crescent, London SW1X OLN. Fax: 020 7581 1829. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
More info: Colombia Solidarity Campaign 07950 923448 email@example.com
had the wool pulled over your eyes by some yarn? In that case this
pearl will have you in stitches. We call upon activists throughout
the world to join together in a Global Knit-In to challenge the
G8 and the global corporatism it stands for. Our primary day of
action will be Wednesday, June 26th 2002. On that day, we ask you
to organise a group of knitters to knit at one of the seats of corporate
power in your communities. Transform those spaces through knitting.
We will also be doing a mass knitting action at a location outside
the G8 meeting. Well show the G8 what we want through our
people- and community-driven production. Time to get that
new balaclava sorted then eh?! To get some anti-capitalist patterns
To find out more about the G8 protests in Alberta, Canada check
SchNEWS warns all readers with a short detention span were
just refugees from the asylum. Honest.
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