What followed is a Movement for Justice statement released ahead of their demo today following Jackie's death.
Jackie had been through the mental torture of the immigration and asylum system, with its arbitrary, subjective decisions and impossible demands to ‘prove that you are a lesbian’. UK Border Agency and an Asylum Tribunal had dismissed out-of-hand the ample evidence of friends and her partner that Jackie was a lesbian, and rejected her claim for asylum. She was sent to the further mental torture of Yarl’s Wood women’s detention centre in November – a few weeks after detainees had shaken the power of the UKBA in an uprising of mass protest against brutality and injustice led by the Yarl’s Wood Movement for Justice group. Jackie had at the time been part of a solidarity demonstration at the UKBA headquarters in Croydon. Jackie continued her fight in Yarl’s Wood. When the UKBA tried to deport her in December Jackie resisted bravely despite the brutality she suffered at the hands of the ‘escorts’ provided by the contractor, Reliance. She forced them to abandon the attempt and when she got back to Yarl’s Wood she lodged a complaint to the UKBA – a complaint the UKBA rejected.
With all the limited avenues of Britain’s racist immigration laws closed to her, and facing deportation to a country where it is a crime to be gay and where the political and religious leaders have whipped up a murderous anti-gay witch-hunt, Jackie’s only option was physical resistance. On 10th January, on Qatar Airways Flight QR76, Jackie fought bravely for her freedom with all the strength she could gather against four Reliance guards. She continued fighting when the guards drew curtains round their end of the plane to hide their crimes. She struggled for as long as she could until, beaten up, half strangled and bent double, she was overcome by the pain in her chest and neck and was unable to breathe.
When Jackie arrived at Entebbe Airport the ‘escort’ party handed her over to the Ugandan authorities, who held her for many more hours without any medical attention. When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed. Since Jackie was in hiding as a known lesbian, protected by relatives, every trip to a doctor or hospital involved a risk to her life and to the safety of her family. They were condemned to watch the agonising decline of Jackie’s health and strength over the next two months.
The Home Office and the UKBA are guilty of Jackie’s murder. They have licenced the brutality that Jackie suffered, even if they pretend ‘to look the other way’; they protect the thugs and the security companies if an asylum seekers’ death or injury becomes public knowledge. Their policies and decisions are responsible for Jackie’s death. The guards who brutalised Jackie should be in jail and Reliance should be condemned as an accessory to murder, along with Qatar Airways and the repressive Qatari Government that is so willing to do Britain’s dirty work - but the real guilt lies with the politicians and bureaucrats who run the Home Office and the UKBA, and ultimately with the Coalition Government. Jackie Nanyonjo was a victim of the immigrant bashing policies of Theresa May, the racist Home Secretary.
The Movement for Justice is putting the UKBA on trial for Jackie’s murder. Jackie is by not the first person to die at the hands or through the actions of the UKBA but we want to make sure that she is the last. Justice for Jackie means above all exposing the UKBA before the Court of Public Opinion, challenging its power so that what happened to Jackie never happens to anyone else, and shutting down Yarl’s Wood detention centre. It means building the movement that Jackie joined, in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres and outside, in our communities and on our campuses, and end the injustice of detention and deportation. Join us this Thursday at the demonstration and speak-out.
End Detention! Stop Deportations! Defend Asylum Rights! Open Borders & Equal Citizenship for All!