A critical report into the detention of women and children at Yarl’s Wood removal centre published today (24 March) states that children are detained there unnecessarily, and that the provision of activities for women is among the worst seen at any detention centre in the UK.
The report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Ann Owers, stated that not only did detention have an adverse effect on children’s welfare, but that their detention was often unnecessary, with over half of the children later being released back into their community.
The report also found that while significant improvements had been made to ensure children were better provided for, the support and activities available for single women – the majority population – were severely lacking. In addition, the average length of stay for women had increased by 50% since the last inspection, and one in 10 women had been detained for more than six months.
The Refugee Council welcomes this report, which adds to a body of evidence that detention is both often overused, and harmful to the physical and mental wellbeing of asylum seekers.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“Yet again more evidence has come to light of the harm detention does, especially to the welfare of already vulnerable children. Detaining children is inhumane, unnecessary and a waste of money, and must not be allowed to continue.
“Whilst we welcome any improvements that have been made to conditions at Yarl’s Wood, the fact that half of all children detained are eventually released back into the community shows that detention is being inappropriately used. It is also a cause for real concern that the needs of many detained women appear to have been overlooked.
“The government must rethink its policy on detention as a matter of urgency – stop detaining children altogether, and find an alternative for adults. Where detention is used, it must be only where absolutely necessary and for the shortest time possible.”