Mothers held at Texas detention centre go on hunger strike to demand release

April 2, 2015
The Guardian

Dozens of mothers seeking asylum who are being held at the Karnes family detention centre in southern Texas have reportedly begun a hunger strike, with 78 women being held signing a letter demanding their release from the centre and announcing a refusal to use any services within the facility.

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Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at advocacy group Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, dismissed any claims the women had been encouraged to strike by legal representatives.

Parker visited the centre in September 2014 and said a number of women she interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of care provided to them and their children and had already been discussing the prospect of a hunger strike.

“This is something that has been rippling through the centre almost since it opened,” Parker told the Guardian. “I don’t believe at all that they were coached into doing this.”

Parker added that contacts with knowledge of events had told her that detention centre managers had begun withdrawing access to facilities, including internet and telephone calls for all those detained at Karnes, regardless of their participation in the reported hunger strike. The centre has a 532-bed capacity.

Parker stated that two women identified as leaders of the group of women had been moved to isolated rooms in the centre.