Today, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons have released their report on their most recent independent and unannounced inspection of Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

The centre was last inspected in 2015. This inspection showed some improvements in conditions for the 300 people held there (mostly women, but also also adult family groups and small number of men in the residential short-term holding facility) but also flagged serious concerns about who is being detained, and for how long.

At the time of the inspection, 15 people had been held for between six months and a year and one had recently been held in detention for more than three years. This is unacceptable, and we welcome that the report repeats its recommendation from 2015, calling for a strict time limit on the length of detention.

The report echoes the concerns of our members about the effectiveness of the Adults at Risk policy to protect vulnerable people from detention: 1/5 of those in detention had been assessed by Home Office to be ‘at the higher levels of risk’; in several cases, detention was maintained despite the acceptance of professional evidence of torture.

One of the starkest figures in the report is that nearly 70% of those detained were released back into the community. More humane and less costly community-based alternatives to detention have proved to be successful, leaving little justification for continued mass, long-term detention. The UK continues to detain on a greater scale that most of Europe, with around 30,000 people detained each year – indefinitely.

In response to the report, Ali McGinley, director of AVID, said:

Time and again the  UK’s key statutory monitoring body provides indisputable evidence that the detention system is putting people at risk. We continue to see really vulnerable people in detention despite recent policy changes – clearly the new protections are not working and today’s report substantiates this. The continued detention of torture  survivors and others deemed to be “high risk”, despite government commitment to protect these groups, is indefensible. It is time for these findings to be taken seriously, with actions that move beyond the broken or failed promises of the last few years towards the fundamental reforms so desperately needed, starting with the introduction of a time limit as a matter of urgency. 

Angelic, a  member of the These Walls Must Fall campaigning group in Manchester, who has herself been detained in Yarl’s Wood said:

“Detaining women and releasing them later serves no purpose whatsoever.  Why destroy instead of mending the broken?”

Mishka from Freed Voices: (a group of experts-by-experience on detention who between them have lost over twenty years to the detention system) said:

“Freed Voices welcome this report – it is another round of ammunition in the fight against indefinite detention. But this is also not the first time a HMIP report has called for a time-limit. They have been pushing for reform for decades. Mental health deterioration, abuse, suicide, death – nothing has changed. In reality, the Home Office gets a report like this and they just pick whatever recommendations they want to respond to and they ignore others. The fact they get to ‘choose’ is representative of the problem of impunity across the detention estate. There is no real accountability. Real reform will only come when the Home Office is forced to change. That’s why we want people to get up and fight, and speak-out, and contact their MPs. We welcome reports but we need action.”

Remember! There’s still time to contact your MP and ask them to attend the parliamentary meeting tomorrow.  Read more here.