Women inside Yarl’s Wood speak out about poor healthcare provision

Yarls Wood Immigration Centre.
Yarls Wood Immigration Centre.

The women held at controversial detention centre Yarl’s Wood say a lack of healthcare is putting them at risk.

Those inside the Serco-run holding pen for those awaiting their fate on deportation have spoken exclusively to the T&C about conditions inside.

One woman, a victim of female genital mutilation who fled Kenya nine years ago to prevent her two daughters from facing the same torture, said she was left without medication for depression for almost two weeks when she was first imprisoned at Yarl’s Wood last month.

In desperation she resorted to attempting to take her own life.

Now she faces the prospect of being sent back to Kenya. “I will be persecuted because I refused to let my children undergo fgm,” she said.

“I’ve had telephone threats. I was told I would be killed.”

Another women inside Yarl’s Wood told of the lack of healthcare provision. She said: “The conditions are not very good. The biggest concern we have is the healthcare. It is almost non-existent.

“I think they use locum doctors so we can be in the queue for ages waiting for a doctor.”

The detainee, who was taken to Yarl’s Wood in July after living in the UK for almost 16 years, claims women are often prescribed the wrong medication and said that room mates become carers for the more seriously ill detainees.

“They hold them in conditions that are not suitable. We end up being both detainees and carers,” she said. “We are all at risk. I’m asthmatic and they gave me ibuprofen.”

A painkiller not recommended for asthmatics as it can cause breathing problems.

She reveled that pregnant women are still being held there despite it being in conflict with Home Office policy.

An inspection report published earlier this month by the Chief Inspector of Prisons revealed that conditions had deteriorated at the Clapham centre.

John Shaw, managing director for public services at G4S, which provides healthcare at Yarl’s Wood, said: “We inherited significant challenges at Yarl’s Wood when we took over the healthcare provision last year, and we are currently reconfiguring the service to address a growing number of more complex medical requirements at the centre.

“To better meet the needs of detainees, we have worked with NHS England to change our contract so that together we can ensure we are providing the right services. We have prioritised providing primary care and inspectors recently reported that access to those services is good and no detainee waits more than three days for a non-emergency appointment.

“We are committed to working closely with the NHS to raise the standard of service at Yarl’s Wood and improve results for those who require medical care.”