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Inspection finds improvements at Yarl’s Wood but no clean bill of health


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There have been “significant improvements” at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, according to the latest report by the independent Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Peter Clarke nevertheless documents “ongoing concerns” about the infamous facility, which at the last inspection in 2015 was found to be “failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable women” detained there. These concerns encompass the profile of the women held at the Serco-run centre, some of whom are torture victims, and one of fifth of whom are assessed by the Home Office as being particularly vulnerable. As such, Mr Clarke said that the effectiveness of the Adults at Risk policy was “questionable”.

Inspectors also found a doctor working as a GP who was not actually registered for general practice. This “was unsafe and put detainees at risk”. Other doctors “had not received enough training in preparing Rule 35 reports”, the quality of which was “generally poor”.

Staff do deserve credit for improving conditions in three of the four broad areas examined. When inspectors visited in early June, they found that “the atmosphere across the centre was far calmer, respectful and relaxed” than the hellish conditions that prevailed in 2015. There was little violence, more proportionate security, and a reduction in self-harm.

Free Movement was tipped off only this week that access to legal websites, including our own, has been blocked at Brook House IRC. It appears that matters in this regards are better at Yarl’s Wood:

Access to legal representation was better than we usually see. Detainees had some good support from Bail for Immigration Detainees and detainees had unrestricted access to legal support websites. [But] all the legal text books in the library were out of date.

All the same, the report raises questions about the number of women subjected to this ameliorated regime:

During the previous six months, 67% of women had been released into the community, which raised questions about the justification for detention in the first place.

Overall, the inspection highlights five main concerns and associated recommendations. The first is:

There should be a strict time limit on the length of detention.

At the time of the inspection, one woman had recently been detained for more than three years.


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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.