Yarl’s Wood is worse for asylum children: MPs

Home Office decision drawn flak


20th May 2010:
Just about two days after the UK government announced its decision to end child detention at the controversial Dungavel centre, it has drawn flak.

The resolution to send the children to the Yarl’s Wood removal centre following the change in the policy was one of the first major decisions by the Home Office after the coalition government took over.

But the Home Office came under immense pressure to put a halt to the decision, as campaigners and MPs came forward to say Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire was even worse.

As of now, the Scots MPs Pete Wishart and Mark Lazarowicz have demanded that the families be not sent to Yarl’s Wood after ending detention at Dungavel.

Lazarowicz said if ending children in detention at Dungavel simply meant sending them from Scotland to be detained at Yarl’s Wood, and then deported, it was not progress but a cynical deception.

Wishart said Yarl’s Wood was probably worse than Dungavel. Wishart said he had heard of hunger strikes and random acts of violence between the inmates. Otherwise also, it was 250 to 280 miles away from Glasgow and they had no idea how the children would be transported.

Only recently, chief inspector of prisons Dame Anne Owers in her report had talked about "troubling" concerns over the welfare of youngsters detained at the centre in Bedfordshire.

The chief inspector has added in some cases even the ministers were not given details of the damage the process of locking up the children was causing to them before decisions to prolong their detention were made.

The report came within a month of another report with similar findings by the Children’s Commissioner. It said Yarl’s Wood was "distressing and harmful" for children, despite recent improvements in conditions.

The reports giving details of the appalling conditions came soon after Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Meg Hillier insisted there were registered on-site counsellors who worked with children and their families taking a holistic approach to meet the families’ needs.

Already, lawyers have been granted permission to challenge conditions at the immigration removal centre on behalf of four women who went on hunger strike. They have alleged "systematic disregard for human dignity".

The detention centre has been in controversy since long. Three doctors at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre are in the dock. They are facing inquiry by the General Medical Council.

The inquiry follows complaints alleging substandard patient care; and a series of negative reports bringing to the fore inadequate healthcare at the centre.

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