The Home Secretary has announced that plans to increase the number of places in ‘secure removal centres’ for asylum seekers will not be affected by events at Yarl’s Wood detention centre earlier this month.
A key part of the Government’s plans to overhaul the asylum system, set out in a White Paper on 7 February, is to step up removals dramatically with the aim of removing 30,000 by Spring 2003. According to the Home Office, the creation of 4,000 places in ‘removal centres’, including Yarl’s Wood, would help achieve this. In his statement, David Blunkett reinforced his commitment to take a harder line on removals: “We therefore have no option but to toughen the regime and instruct the immigration and nationality directorate further to speed up removal of those in the centres to their country of origin”.
In response to David Blunkett’s statement, the Refugee Council’s head of policy Alison Fenney commented: “The term ‘removal centres’ is misleading as it implies that people are being detained just prior to their removal from the country at the end of the asylum decision making process.This is not the case. Many asylum seekers are being detained for indefinite periods of time before the final outcome of their asylum case is known. They have not committed a crime or even been accused of committing one. With the UK’s record already the worst in Europe for detaining asylum seekers, the Government needs to urgently rethink its policy on detention.”
David Blunkett announced other measures in response to the fire at Yarl’s Wood, including a commitment to install sprinklers in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres and an investigation into the causes of the unrest at Yarl’s Wood which will draw together separate reports by the fire services, Group 4 and the police.