Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre
is an immigration detention
centre near Clapham
in the United Kingdom
. It opened on 19 November 2001
and was built to hold up to 900 detainees making it the largest immigration detention centre in Europe
at the time. It is currently operated by SERCO
In December 2003, a reporter discovered institutional racism
and a lack of care of inmates . In September 2005 Manuel Bravo from Angola
killed himself while on detention there.
Conditions in the Detention Centre
Lack of Privacy
Detainees report that male guards regularly enter the women's rooms when they are undressed and search through their underwear.
Mothers report that after 5pm their kids go hungry as there is no food available until 8am the next morning. Most children were born in Britain but their birth certificates have been confiscated by the immigration authorities. Women are also very concerned about the neglect of their children’s health with allegations from detainees that that symptoms in young children are being ignored.
Lack of adequate legal advice
A 2006 Legal Action for Women (LAW) investigation into Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre, before Serco
took over, found that: 70% of women had reported rape, nearly half had been detained for over three months. 57% had no legal representation, and 20% had lawyers who demanded payment in advance. Women reported sexual and racial intimidation by guards. LAW’s Self-Help Guide has been confiscated by guards depriving detainees of information about their rights
There have been numerous hunger strikes of particular note are:
December 2001 Hunger Strike
In December 2001 just after opening the first hunger strike
began with five Roma
detainees refusing to eat.
May 2007 Hunger Strike
In May 2007, women detainees, many of them single mothers, began a hunger strike
in response to new measures introduced by Serco who took over the running of the centre the previous month, under an £87m contract. There are currently 91 families on hunger strike. The women's 15 demands are:
- Release from detention
- No lock up
- No punishment or retribution against those protesting or on hunger strike.
- Proper access to legal information
- Respect for privacy and the end to male guards entering cells without warning
- An end to violence from staff
- The dismissal of sexist and racist staff
- The right to keep mobiles
- An investigation into money sent by relatives and supporters which disappeared.
- A reinstatement of the 71p daily allowance
- No profiteering
- No fingerprinting of visitors
- A choice of sanitary pads
- Adequate health care
- Edible food we can eat.
February 2002 Fire
In February 2002, the building was burnt down following a protest by the detainees. This was triggered by a 55 year old woman being physically restrained by staff. When the fires started the Head of Group 4 security ordered all staff to exit the building, locking the detainees inside the timber framed building. It later emerged that the government had failed to install a sprinkler system
. Although there was an investigation, no members of Group 4
were ever prosecuted. Detainees were dispersed prior to the reopening of the undamaged wing in September 2003
November 2006 Riot
A group of detainees rioted in November 2006 after being refused to watch a news report criticising conditions at the centre.
British Immigration and Nationality Directorate's page on Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre