Petition: housing vulnerable asylum seekers in portacabins on wasteland next to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

It’s the middle of a grim winter, the pandemic is fiercer than ever, and yet the Home Office wants to force hundreds of vulnerable refugees into cramped portacabins at the infamous Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

This is a cruel way to treat refugees, it’s badly planned policy and it should be stopped. One brave local resident has today launched a legal challenge to halt the Government in its tracks. It’s a cause we should all support.

Flimsy temporary accommodation is an inhumane place to house refugees. The conditions are cramped, cold and unsanitary. Refugees have escaped war zones, torture and persecution, they are traumatised. Locking them behind gates with no access to the community, no information about how long they must stay there or what will happen to their claims, is inhuman. The toll on their mental and physical health is severe.

Yarl’s Wood has a grim history as a detention centre. Its record of hunger strikes, failed inspections and sexual abuse allegations speak of a place where the most basic human rights of refugees are not respected. It should have seen it closed long ago. Instead, private firm Serco still has the contract to run the site.

This legal action is so important to the safety and dignity of refugees in Britain today. If we can stop the development at Yarl’s Wood the Government will have to think again, and think harder, about a fair and humane way to look after vulnerable refugees. Please sign this petition to stop this now 


The Home Office is using emergency planning regulations to rush through plans to house vulnerable asylum seekers in portacabins on wasteland next to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. We at Care4Calais, Stand Up To Racism, Refugee Action, UNITE the Union, MSF Take Action, Stand Up To Racism Bedford, Legacy of Windrush Descendants, UNISON and many others call for an immediate halt to these plans.

The facilities at Yarl’s Wood have been dogged by a problematic and controversial history. An independent inquiry into the 2002 fire at the Yarl’s Wood said the centre was not fit for purpose. In 2015, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said Yarl’s Wood was ‘a place of national concern’. In 2018, 120 women went on hunger strike in protest at their detention and conditions inside the facility. Yet, wracked by scandal about misconduct and abuse perpetrated by SERCO staff towards women detained at Yarl’s Wood, the Home Office renewed a multi-million-pound contract with SERCO to run the centre.

As has been abundantly clear from their current use of army barracks at Penally and Folkestone this type of accommodation is completely inappropriate for housing some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Disturbing accounts have emerged of self-harm, suicide attempts, hunger strikes and unsanitary conditions perpetuating an already high COVID risk in cramped living spaces. Reports have shown that there are regular medical emergencies and ambulances are called to Napier Barracks in Kent on a weekly basis.

The people the Home Office plans to house at Yarl’s Wood are victims of horrific circumstance. They have fled war, persecution, torture, trafficking and abject poverty. They are severely traumatised, and many suffer PTSD from experiences we could not imagine. The toll the environment in Yarl’s Wood will take on their mental and physical health cannot be overstated. Any military or detention setting will retraumatise these individuals, as has been evident in the Napier and Penally camps. They deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity, not housed in prefabricated, rushed accommodation. The location of Yarl’s Wood also means that asylum seekers will be isolated from vital services; GPs, mental health services, legal representation and NGO support to name a few.

The planned creation of asylum accommodation at Yarl’s Wood would be irresponsible and a flagrant abuse of the human rights of the people it houses.

We call on the Home Office to find humane alternatives in community locations and ensure that vulnerable people are given the care and support they so desperately need.

We call on the Home Office to reduce the backlog in asylum applications and address the record length of time taken to process claims so that the use of these inappropriate accommodations is unnecessary. We demand immediate action. Join us by signing this petition.

This petition has been co-signed by:

Care4Calais  |  Stand Up To Racism  |  Stand Up To Racism Bedford  |  Legacy of Windrush Descendants  |  UNITE the Union  |  Danny Hoggan, Chair of Unite the Union, bLondon and the Eastern Local Government Regional Industrial Sector Committee  |  UNISON  |  Refugee Action  |  MSF Take Action  |  Cllr Sue Oliver, Labour Group Leader, Bedford Borough Council on behalf of Bedford Borough Council Labour Group  |  Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston  |  Stand Up To Racism Calderdale  |  Stand Up To Racism Leeds  |  Regularise  |  Stand Up To Racism Wandsworth  |  Wandsworth Anti-Racist Education Campaign   |  Migrants’ Rights Network  |  Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG)  |  Student Action for Refugees  |  Entraide  |  Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG)  |  Asylum Welcome  |  Joanne MacInnes, Director, West London Welcome  |  Doctors of the World UK Director of Development, Ellen Waters  |  Migrant Voice  |  Kerry Smith, CEO of the Helen Bamber Foundation  |  South London Refugee Association  |  The University of Liverpool Law Clinic  |  Govan Community Project  |  Bail for Immigration Detainees  |  Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)  |  Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)  |  After Exploitation  |  Haringey Migrant Support Centre  |  Refugee Council  |  Samphire  |  The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)  |  Kalayaan  |  Waging Peace  |  Scottish Refugee Council  |  Global Link, Lancaster  |  Refugee Youth Service  |  Migrants Organise  |  Refugee Rights Europe  |  Mel Steel, Director, Voices in Exile  |  Freedom from Torture  |  The Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers (SDCAS)  |  Bristol Refugee Rights  |  The Refugee Buddy Project: Hastings, Rother and Wealden  |  Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN)  |  Swansea City of Sanctuary  |  Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research (RAPAR)  |  Tony Conway, Coventry Against Racism  |  Humans for Rights Network  |  Action Foundation

Note: Ideally the Government would give everyone who is undocumented or in the legal process Indefinite Leave to Remain at this time.