‘I will NEVER give up’: Former Kingston University student’s campaign to close asylum centre ‘prison’

A former Kingston University student and human rights award winner insists she will never give up her fight to close the asylum centre she was detained in at the age of 13.

Meltem Avcil, from the Kurdish part of Turkey, said that Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre felt more like a prison and her mother stopped eating and talking for an entire week.

She said: “The problem is the people have not done anything to deserve that.

“You have to go through eight metal doors to get to your room and the windows are sealed – it’s just a terrible place.”

The centre opened in 2001 and promises ‘respect, support and commitment’ on their website, but Meltem feels like she was treated as a criminal during her three-month stay.

Meltem’s petition to close the centre has attracted more than 50,000 signatures on

Her campaigning efforts have reached national recognition but she says she will continue her movement until it is permanently shut down.

The Home Office told SW Londoner: “We are committed to treating all detainees with dignity and respect, and take any allegations to the contrary very seriously.

“Yarl’s Wood is inspected regularly by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons as well as the centre’s Independent Monitoring Board.

“In the latest HM Chief Inspector of Prisons report, inspectors praised the consistent and ongoing improvements at the centre and reported that most detainees believed it to be a largely respectful and safe place.”

Last month Meltem won the prestigious Christine Jackson Young Person Award for her actions to improve human rights.

She said she was shocked to receive such a prestigious award but was touched by the acknowledgement.

Meltem explained: “It means I have achieved something on behalf of my name, my mum, the women in there – it’s very sentimental for me.”

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