The Bedford and Kempston MP visited Bedford charity Yarl’s Wood Befrienders (YWB) to meet trustees and volunteers, and learn about their work visiting detainees.
Unlike prison, there are no restrictions on the time an individual can be held in detention. Individuals can arrive expecting a brief stay and end up detained for weeks, months and occasionally years.
On average the women YWB meets are detained for 95 days and only 22 per cent of them are removed to their country of origin. YWB says that this means "many people end up suffering significant stress and serious disruption for no apparent reason."
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Giving his support to the nationwide campaign calling for a 28 day time limit on detention #Time4aTimeLimit, Mohammad Yasmin MP said: “Yarl’s Wood Befrienders provide fantastic support to a group of often vulnerable people held in detention in Bedfordshire.
"It is troubling that so many local residents are unaware of the facts around immigration detention – not least that people can be held indefinitely in prison-like environment, while their immigration cases are considered. Yarl’s Wood should be shut down, but until that happens, the Befrienders offer a lifeline to those held in the centre ”
More than 50 volunteer befrienders visit women detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre on a weekly basis, providing listening and befriending support to reduce the isolation detainees are experiencing and to help restore their self-esteem.
Caroline Clark, director of YWB, said: “It is heartening that our MP has taken the time to visit us and to listen to the some of the stories of women detained indefinitely at Yarl’s Wood.
"Few people are even aware of the existence of this IRC on our doorstep, much less have any understanding of the devastating impact that indefinite detention has on people’s mental and physical health. We look forward to having his support to raise the issue in Parliament and also among his constituents.”