Women still held for too long at Yarl’s Wood, says watchdog

MBTC Yarl's Wood
MBTC Yarl's Wood

Women are still being held at Yarl’s Wood for long periods, according to a report published today by the Independent Monitoring Board at Yarl’s Wood Immigration

Removal Centre.

The IMB’s Annual Report for 2015 reveals that, while the majority of women were held for 30 days or less, a worrying number were detained for much

longer periods. Ten women were held for more than a year and two for more than 18 months.

The IMB highlights the indeterminate nature of detention at Yarl’s Wood and questions why people are being detained in the first place, reminding Immigration

Enforcement that its own standards state that people must not be taken into detention unless there is a realistic prospect of removal in a reasonable time.

Only 19% of detainees were removed from the country.This calls into question decisions to detain and suggests that Yarl’s Wood is not fulfilling its basic function, according

to the IMB.

“The financial costs of this failure, as well as the costs in terms of human suffering, for people detained for lengthy indefinite periods, are immense,” a spokesman said.

“Once again we recommend that there should be maximum period in detention, such as the six-month period prescribed in the 2008 European Returns Directive.”

Other concerns highlighted in the report include:

> The use of handcuffs for hospital visits

> The detention of women with mental health problems who become very

disturbed in the detention setting;

> the detention of pregnant women;

> A high proportion of detainees being moved at night, and removals being

cancelled at the last-minute;

> charter flights being overbooked with detainees making long journeys to the

airport and back to Yarl’s Wood, often at night.

> Reduced provision of legal aid, so that very few detainees are eligible

> The IMB also calls on the Immigration Minister to review the policy of detaining

pregnant women and to set up a monitoring board to oversee the removal of

detainees on charter flights.

However a change of policy on the detention of pregnant women, permitting only a 72-hour stay, recently announced in the Immigration Act 2016 to come into effect in June 2016, was welcomed.