Serco sorry for eight cases of ‘improper sexual contact’ by staff at Yarl’s Wood

Yarl's Wood detention centre
Yarl's Wood detention centre

The private firm which runs the Yarl’s Wood detention centre has apologised for eight cases of ‘improper sexual contact’ by staff.

Summoned before the Commons home affairs committee, Serco executives revealed 10 staff had been dismissed during investigations into the allegations.

Serco UK central government division chief executive Dr Bob McGuiness, said: “We set very high standards for ourselves and our staff.

“On those instances where we have fallen short of the standards we have set for ourselves, I absolutely am sorry and apologise for these cases.”

During the meeting, the committee questioned Serco’s management of Yarl’s Wood and proposed a further meeting to hear from detainees or their legal representatives, and an inspection visit to the centre by MPs.

Serco is paid £12.5million a year by the government to run the immigration removal centre near Clapham.

The centre lies in North East Bedford MP Alistair Burt’s constiuency.

He said: “All sexual harrassment is wrong and needs instant investigation. It is right Serco apologised.”

He added: “The mental health of the women remains an issue and needs work.”

Mr Burt has made regular visits to the centre and said while from the outside it looks like a prison, it is more open on the inside.

He said: “Health matters to the people inside.

“Although they have access to good activities, a library and courses, they don’t have their freedom.

“There is also the question of how you prepare people for being returned to their home country.

“Perhaps we could help them more,provide them with skills such as being able to set up a business, or training to work in the press and media back home.”

Mr Burt also suggested some of the complaints he hears about Yarl’s Wood are confused with complaints about the system, which “can lead to questions if some women should even be there.”

He said: “The Home Office process needs work.

“It’s one of the hardest areas of policy I’ve ever come across.”