A government letter telling hunger strikers at an immigration centre their actions may speed up their deportation has been attacked by Labour.
The Home Office letter was given to the protesting women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told the House of Commons it sounded like “punitive deportations for women who have dared to go on hunger strike”.
But, the government said the letter was simply official guidance.
Raising an urgent question on the issue, Ms Abbott said the timing of her visit to Yarl’s Wood last month coincided with a hunger strike by some of the detainees who were protesting at what they described as the “inhumane conditions” there.
She said: “But in response to my repeated inquiries the authorities at the detention centre, the Home Office, Serco and G4S said categorically that there was no hunger strike – it now seems that we were misled.”
Ms Abbott said a Home Office letter sent to these women refusing food and fluids this “may, in fact lead to your case being accelerated and your removal from the UK taking place sooner”.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the letter was part of official Home Office guidance and was published on the website in November.
She said: “I was first aware that individuals at Yarl’s Wood were refusing food and fluid at about the same time that [Ms Abbott] undertook her visit.
“Of course I regard that as very serious.
“Nobody wants detainees to be at any risk, but it is important that they should not regard that as a route to prevent removal from this country.”