A press release on the Ministry of Justice website quoted the Chief Inspector as saying: “Yarl’s Wood has had a troubled past, punctuated by serious disturbances and controversy surrounding the detention of children. This inspection found that the improvements we have noted since the detention of children ended have continued. Nevertheless, despite the good progress made, improvement continues to be necessary. Yarl’s Wood still holds detainees in the middle of a distressing and difficult experience and more thought needs to be given to meeting their emotional and practical needs. For the most vulnerable of the women held, the decision to detain itself appears much too casual”.
The press release noted that inspectors were pleased to find that:
- Reception services were good;
- Men held in the short-term holding unit were treated well – many were ‘lorry drops’ who had arrived at the centre after long, dangerous journeys and were grateful to be in a safe place;
- Most detainees said the establishment was safe and there were very few violent incidents and little victimisation;Use of force and segregation had decreased since the last inspection;
- The high number of women subject to suicide and self-harm prevention procedures were generally well cared for;
- The daily ‘individual needs’ meeting focused attention on the most vulnerable and was good practice;
- Young people whose age was disputed were generally well looked after until an age assessment could be carried out;
- The number of formal complaints had reduced since the last inspection because minor issues were quickly and appropriately sorted out informally;
- There was a wide range of activities available;
- Solid support was provided by the welfare officer, but he was overstretched;
- and visits arrangements were good and detainees had access to the internet and phones to maintain contact with others.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- Two staff had engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee, which can never be less than abusive given the vulnerability of the detained population, and these staff had been rightly dismissed;
- The lack of progress of their immigration cases caused women most distress;
- A number of women had been detained for very long periods – one for almost four years;
- Several obviously mentally ill women had been detained before being sectioned and released to a medical facility;
- Pregnant women had been detained without evidence of the exceptional circumstances required to justify this;
- Detainees who had clear trafficking indicators had not been referred to the national trafficking referral mechanism as required;
- and Rule 35 reports, which notified the Home Office if a detainee’s health might be adversely affected by detention, in particular because the detainee alleged they had been tortured, were poorly completed.