A report published today by the Chief Inspector of Prisons has labelled Yarl’s Wood IRC a “place of national concern”.
Inspectors found dozens of pregnant women have been held at the facility in Bedfordshire against Government policy, while some are being held for more than a year because of “unacceptable” delays in processing their cases. In one case a woman had been held for 17 months. The prisons watchdog also found the centre is understaffed and healthcare services have declined “severely”.
Commenting on the report, Members of Parliament David Burrowes and Richard Fuller have called on the Government to respond positively to the inspection team’s recommendations. Fuller and Burrowes both served on the Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention – a cross-party inquiry run by the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration – which recommended that a time limit of 28 days be placed on the length of time anyone can be held in an immigration removal centre.
In the HMIP report, the Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick supported the call for a time limit, saying “Other well-respected bodies have recently called for time limits on administrative detention. In my view, the rigorously evidenced concerns we have identified in this inspection provide strong support for these calls, and a strict time limit must now be introduced on the length of time that anyone can be administratively detained.”
Fuller and Burrowes, along with Labour MP Paul Blomfield, recently secured a parliamentary debate on the use of immigration detention. The debate will take place in the House of Commons on 10 September.
Commenting on the report, Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford, said:
“It is unacceptable that vulnerable women, including pregnant women and survivors of sexual violence, are locked up indefinitely at Yarl’s Wood when their cases could be considered just as efficiently while they are living in the community.
“I hope that my colleagues in Parliament will carefully consider this report from HMIP, and I hope that we can start to build a true political consensus for reform in the Parliamentary debate which is scheduled for 10 September. It is time to build an asylum process which is effective and which respects the dignity and humanity of vulnerable individuals, while preserving strong borders.”
The Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate David Burrowes added:
“This report adds further weight to the parliamentary inquiry’s conclusion that the current system of detaining people without a time limit works neither for taxpayers nor detainees.
“While there is a need to properly control our borders, people who arrive by fair means or foul must also be treated with dignity and respect throughout the immigration process. The current system of immigration detention is failing to do this.
“The Chief Inspector has echoed the panel’s call for a time limit. I urge my colleagues in the Government to respond positively when the House of Commons debates this matter in September.”