The last week has seen hunger strikes at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire in protest at inadequate medical care: after all, this ‘detention centre’, run by private contractor Serco, is in all but name a prison. In this piece, a Chilean woman detained in Yarl’s Wood speaks of how her employer had her sent there after she protested about unpaid wages.
I’ve lived in London for two years, working as a cleaner and factory worker – usually several shifts a day. At first when I was working at Fitness First there was no problem and I got all my wages, but then they changed their cleaning contractor. The new bosses deliberately took on staff without papers. I was told to keep working for three months without pay, and then I was sacked. They threatened to take my case to the Home Office because I had no right to be here. But I said to them that I wasn’t going to walk away and would get my money back. They were surprised because they thought they were big and they thought I was nothing.
Then began the story of working with the union, the Latin American Workers Association and London Coalition Against Poverty. So thanks to my friends and the union, we won this fight and I was paid over £1000 that I was owed. Then I found out that hundreds of people were experiencing exactly the same problem as me. Continue reading “immigration controls: a weapon to defend exploitation”