Shock allegations surrounding the death of a 40-year-old woman at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre were made during an urgent House of Commons debate on Monday afternoon.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, told fellow MPs that there are “unconfirmed reports” that the detainee was initially denied medical assistance and that Yarl’s Wood had “turned down offers of help for other women detainees who were distressed after witnessing the death”.
An inquest is due to open tomorrow (Wednesday, April 2) into the death of Christine Case, who died from a massive pulmonary thrombo-embolism. A paramedic doctor confirmed her death on Sunday.
Ms Cooper asked James Brokenshire, the Minister for Security and Immigration, said: “Can he assure the House that all those reports are being fully looked into as part of the police and wider investigations?”
Ms Cooper concluded by asking for a joint inquiry on Yarl’s Wood’s operations and the contract to operator Serco.
According to a report in Hansard, Mr Brokenshire did not concede the need for a new inquiry. He said: “The Right Hon. Lady asked about the level of support provided to those at the centre. I have spoken to the centre director, John Tolland, about that.
“He has underlined the fact that there has been increased staffing, increased counselling is being provided, and additional pastor support has been arranged for those at the centre.”
He added that he was “not in a position to comment on the specific points” but added “I can assure her that they will have been heard by those with responsibility in the police and the inspectorate.
“Certainly, I would expect all issues to be thoroughly analysed and investigated appropriately, given the nature of this incident.”
Mr Brokenshire said an unannouced inspection of Yarl’s Wood by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, concluded that “improvement continues to be necessary” and he endorsed that.
Bedford and Kempston Conservative MP Richard Fuller said: “Many outside observers of Yarl’s Wood would say that its management has improved in the recent past, but however good it is, we are still dealing with some very vulnerable women.
“Many of them have sought asylum here because they were victims of rape or abuse, and just because they could not prove that to an immigration official does not mean that it did not happen.
“The current process for detaining women for immigration purposes seems to me to be ineffective, costly and unjust.
“Will my Hon. Friend take the opportunity, after this tragic incident to bring a fresh pair of eyes to the whole process of the detention of women for immigration purposes?”
Mr Brokenshire said: “I underline the fact that there have been improvements at Yarl’s Wood, and he referred to them.
“We are seeking to speed up decisions while maintaining high standards in asylum cases and more generally in the immigration system.”