A report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons says Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire “is rightly a place of national concern”.
Most of those detained are single women, though children are held there sometimes. Inspectors report that, across the past year, 23 individuals have been detained at Yarl’s Wood who said they were children. Of these, 13 (57%) had been assessed to be children. Although child detainees “were appropriately cared for in the centre”, there was no regular safeguarding training for custody officers. Some had not been trained “for several years”.
Yarl’s Wood is run by Serco under contract with the UK Government. The inspection took place in April and May this year.
UK law must set limits on how long an individual can be held in immigration detention, says the UN Human Rights Committee.
The UN body of experts monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose rights were drawn from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights established after the Second World War.
There is currently no upper limit on the time a child or an adult is held in immigration detention in the UK.
Latest statistics published by the government show 121 children entered immigration detention in the year ending March 2015. Of the 43 children leaving detention in the first three months of 2015:
- 29 had been held for less than 4 days
- 11 were held for between 4 and 7 days
- 3 were held for between 15 and 28 days.
The UN Committee also urged the UK to increase the age of criminal responsbility, which is currently 10 in England and Wales. Such a move would reduce the use of imprisonment, since welfare rather than criminal justice agencies would be required to respond to the needs of children at a much earlier stage.
Consistent with successive recommendations from other human rights bodies, at home and abroad, the UK Government was also told to give children the same protection from assault as adults.
Read the UN report here.