Recent media coverage has brought to a light the unsatisfactory conditions of UK immigration detention centres. One of these centres which has received much attention is Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, in Bedfordshire, England. It has been named the ‘worst’ immigration removal centre, with deaths, mistreatment and people being detained for years. An explosive new report by Women for Refugee Women has revealed that male guards at Yarl’s Wood are routinely watching women shower and use the toilet, despite Home Office officials claiming this would not be allowed.
Yarl’s Wood’s Centre Manager, Norman Abusin, claims that, “Caring and supporting those held in Detention at Yarl’s Wood is at the forefront of all our policies, procedures and actions”
In the lead up to the report produced by Women for Refugee Women, 38 current and former detainees were contacted, of whom 33 said that they were seen by male staff in the centre in intimate situations including when naked, when in bed, when on the toilet and when in the bathroom.
More than 70% of the women who talk about their experiences in their home countries said that they had been raped or been victims of other sexual violence prior to arriving in Britain. Over half of the women were on suicide watch, while 40% said that they self-harmed while inside.
‘I Am Human’ also reports that six women said that staff at Yarl’s Wood had made sexual suggestions to them, with three alleging that they were touched sexually.
Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle called the findings “inexcusable” saying: “It’s unimaginable to think that the Government locks up rape victims and inappropriately leaves them under the control of male guards.
“It’s appalling that women at Yarl’s Wood are treated like criminals, despite their only “crime” being to believe they would be safe in Britain.
“We urge the Government to take the brave step of acknowledging that centres like Yarl’s Wood are an affront to justice, and should be closed immediately.”
The Refugee Council are calling on the Government to close the Protection Gap for women who are seeking asylum in the UK. You can join them here: www.asylumaid.org.uk/protectiongap