New research published by Women for Refugee Women reports that Britain is failing in its duty to protect female asylum seekers. Detained highlights concerns surrounding Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire which has attracted attention over allegations of sexual assaults.

  • Earlier this week Zadie Smith called the UK’s continued detention of women in Yarl’s Wood detention centre a “shame to any civilised nation” HERE.
  • Download the report HERE (PDF)

Detention is supposed to be for individuals who are deemed likely to abscond, those who pose a threat to the public, or where removal is imminent. Yet the numbers of asylum seekers being detained are rising and the United Kingdom is one of the few European countries to put no time limits on such detention. The Home Office UK Border Agency states on its website that; “the UK has a proud tradition of providing a place of safety for genuine refugees.”

However Detained claims to have exposed Britain as failing these vulnerable women, who come desperately needing help. The research includes interviews with 46 women about their experiences in seeking asylum whilst being held at Yarl’s Wood. Of the sample, 93% were reported to have felt depressed, 85% felt scared and more than half thought about killing themselves.

“When I left detention, Yarl’s Wood followed me to Manchester. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a trance, I feel I hear the footsteps of the officers, I hear the banging of the doors and the sound of their keys. Even though I’m out of detention, I’m not really out – I still have those dreams.”
From ‘Detained’

When asked about staff behavior in detention, 40 of the women interviewed said they had been guarded by male staff and 70% of those said this made them feel uncomfortable. Half of the women said a member of staff had verbally abused them, more than one in five (22%) said that staff had been racist towards them; three women said they had been physically assaulted; and one said she was sexually assaulted. Women spoke about male staff bursting into their rooms even when they were not dressed or watching them going to the toilet. When talking of the atrocities they had fled from, almost three-quarters (72%), said that they had been raped and more than four out of 10 (41%) said that they had been tortured.




Author: Lucy Britt

Cardiff Law graduate and Innocent project worker up until 2012. Has also written articles for HumanRIghts TV and own personal blog. Now a Winchester University Journalism Masters student.

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