Home Office slammed for renewing Serco’s contract to run Yarl’s Wood

The government’s decision to renew Serco’s contract to run Yarl’s Wood women’s Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) has been slammed by human rights organisations and politicians.

Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire has been subject to claims of sexual misconduct by staff. There have been claims of women being detained for long periods and pregnant detainees being held without justification.

Home Office said they had re-appointed Serco Ltd “to operate, maintain and manage Yarl’s Wood IRC for a further eight years.”

“Serco Ltd will care for up to 410 immigration detainees at the Bedfordshire site, continuing to be responsible for the operational management of custody services, detainee welfare and recreational activities,” Home Office said.

Serco, who is the current contractor for Yarl’s Wood IRC, was first appointed to manage the centre in 2007. The new contract valued at £70million over eight years, will start on 26th April 2015 when the existing contract term expires.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Serco Ltd will continue to manage Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre on behalf of the Home Office after emerging as the preferred contractor following a comprehensive retendering process. Serco’s bid demonstrated that its offer was the best in meeting quality and cost criteria and providing value for money for the taxpayer.”

“We are more than disappointed that the Home Office has re-awarded the contract to manage Yarl's Wood to Serco,” Natasha Walter of Women for Refugee Women, said. "We have spoken directly to women who say that they were abused by Serco staff in Yarl's Wood, and we have heard how women's privacy is constantly invaded by male staff in the detention centre.

"Serco is clearly unfit to manage a centre where vulnerable women are held and it is unacceptable that the Government continues to entrust Serco with the safety of women who are survivors of sexual violence.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said a full independent inquiry into the centre’s operation should have been carried out before renewing the contract. “It is important immigration rules are enforced, but they must be enforced in a humane way that upholds the values of our society. Too often Serco’s Yarl’s Wood operation appears to have fallen below the high standards we would expect,” quoted Ms Cooper to have said.

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