Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, has published a new report on an inspection of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. (download the full report here, pdf) The report found that:
‘Too many pregnant women, who should only have been held in exceptional circumstances, were detained in the centre.’ (p6)‘There was evidence of poor case owner reviews of their detention, which took no account of the pregnancy.’ (p16)
‘There were seven pregnant women at the centre at the time of the inspection. When we reviewed the UKBA files for five of them, only one of the monthly review letters mentioned pregnancy, and even that suggested the pregnancy was disputed, even though it had been confirmed for some time.’ (p12)
‘Two of the women’s ultrasound scans had been delayed.’ (p43)
‘One pregnant detainee had originally been detained in Northern Ireland and had undergone a four-day journey to Yarl’s Wood: from Belfast, she had been transferred to Dungavel IRC in Scotland and then to Pennine House at Manchester airport, where she had collapsed. She had been taken to hospital and treated before completing the rest of her journey to Yarl’s Wood, where she went through the DFT [Detained Fast Track] process.’ (p30)
Celia Clarke, Director of Bail for Immigration Detainees, commented:
‘We are gravely concerned by the Prison Inspector’s findings. His report shows that the situation of these very vulnerable women is not being taken into account by the UK Border Agency when they are detained.
‘In one case, a pregnant women was transferred between four immigration removal facilities and collapsed and was hospitalised during this process. This kind of appalling practice by the UK Border Agency puts the health of women and their unborn children at serious risk, and is wholly unacceptable.
‘We regularly work with pregnant women who are detained by the UK Border Agency for long periods. Pregnant women tell us that they have difficulties eating and sleeping in detention, that that they are suffering from extreme distress and anxiety, and that their physical health is deteriorating. Women report that it is particularly difficult for them to cope without the support of any friends or family during their pregnancy.
‘We are calling on the Government to put an end to the inhumane and unnecessary practice of holding pregnant women in immigration detention. There is scant risk that women who are pregnant will abscond, given their need to access regular medical care.’
Court rules deported Sri Lankan family can return
Reported in the Scotsman: A family of Sri Lankan asylum seekers unlawfully detained in a night-time raid and flown to Germany nearly six years ago must be returned to the UK, the High Court has ruled. Home Secretary Theresa May has also been ordered to pay the five family members – a man, his mentally ill wife, a son and two daughters – a total of about £37,000 in compensation.And in The Telegraph:
In the ruling, Mr Justice Cranston said the Sri Lankan families rights had been violated in the way they had been dealt with. Manjit Gill QC, representing the family in court, said they were taken from their beds and flown out of the country after being denied access to legal advice. A few hours after being detained, they were put on a 7.50am flight to Germany.
The Home Office has now accepted they were unlawfully detained and the court said they must be brought back. The judge said the violation of the rights of the husband, his mentally-ill wife and their son and two daughters, now aged between 14 and 23, entitled them to return to the UK, if they so wished.
Legal: detention centres legal surgery rotas
Raising Refugee Women’s Voices’ conference report
The ‘Raising Refugee Women’s Voices’ conference saw speakers from the UK Border Agency, the Scottish Government, UNHCR and the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group gather to discuss the issues that are affecting women both within the asylum process and once they have refugee status.The report provides a summary of the key issues and recommendations for action discussed during the conference based on notes taken by Scottish Refugee Council staff and volunteers.
Various delegates were asked during the conference to reflect on the issues asylum seeking and refugee women face and how the asylum system needs to be improved.