Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, who conduct independent inspections of both prisons and immigration detention centres, have today released its report on its June 2017 unannounced inspection of Yarl’s Wood detention centre. You can read the report here.
Yarl’s Wood is perhaps the most famous of the UK’s sites of detention (find out more about the others through the Unlocking Detention project), and holds around 300 people – mostly women, but also adult family groups and a small number of men in the ‘residential short-term holding facility’ at the site.
The report found that conditions in Yarl’s Wood had improved since the last report. The last report was in 2015 – which followed widespread serious allegations of abuse, and which despite many obstacles including the removal from the UK of victims and witnesses, have subsequently led to the firing of one member of staff.
People detained reported that delays and uncertainty in immigration casework were causing a lot of anxiety and frustration. Pursuing your immigration and asylum case while detained is extremely difficult and impedes your access to justice – this shows that broader reform of the immigration system is required, and that detention should be completely taken out of the equation.
People continued to be detained for very long periods of time – at the time of the inspection, 15 people had been held for between six months and a year and one had recently been held in detention for more than three years. The report calls for a strict time limit on detention, something which the 2015 report also called for and has widespread support among the public and parliamentarians.
Nearly 70% of those detained at Yarl’s Wood released back into the community.
In response to the report Maria from Liverpool, who is involved in campaigning against detention with These Walls Must Fall, spoke of her own experience of being detained in Yarl’s Wood:
“It is a feeling of prison, it effects everything. My experience first time, every door is closed, locked, locked, locked. I couldn’t eat or anything, it made me so stressed. It effects all your life afterwards”.
Angelic, a member of the Manchester These Walls Must Fall campaign group who has also been detained in Yarl’s Wood, had this to say:
“Detaining women and releasing them later serves no purpose whatsoever. Why destroy instead of mending the broken?”
As the report points out, “Although [Yarl’s Wood is] a custodial establishment, we were mindful that detainees were not held because they had been charged with a criminal offence and had not been detained through normal judicial processes.”
Report after report has shown the damage of detention – our neighbours, our friends are being taken from our communities and subjected to this, deprived of their liberty and their dignity, for ‘administrative purposes’. This must end.