Children At Risk In Yarl’s Wood


Parents of sixteen families incarcerated at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) are on hunger strike over their appalling conditions.

Meanwhile, Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, is still expressing severe concerns about the detention of children at Yarl’s Wood IRC.

In her latest report on the centre published last Wednesday, Owers says: ‘There was still no evidence to suggest that the child’s welfare was taken into consideration when making decisions about initial and continued detention.’

She stressed: ‘We continued to have significant concerns about aspects of safety in the centre.

‘It was even more difficult for detainees to obtain up-to-date and accurate information about their cases, as experienced, on-site immigration officers were being withdrawn.

‘Removals were still being carried out without proper warning or planning.’

Owers made her second inspection of Yarl’s Wood IRC in February of this year and published the report last Wednesday 26th July.

In her first inspection of Yarl’s Wood in February 2005 she made a number of recommendations to the Home Office, one year later:

Thirty recommendations made at that inspection had not been achieved, a further 25 recommendations had only been partly achieved.

Extracts from Wednesday’s report reveal some of the key concerns of HMCIP:

• there was no evidence that children’s welfare was taken into account when making detention decisions;

• a social worker had been appointed to make independent assessments of children’s welfare, though she later resigned.

Her role was unclear and there were no systems to ensure that her advice affected decisions; and

* there were weaknesses in child protection arrangements.

In relation to adult detainees, inspectors noted:

l staff lacked sufficient guidance in managing suicide and self-harm;

l it was even more difficult for detainees to get up-to-date information about their cases; and

l removals were still carried out without proper warning or planning.

Anne Owers said: ‘Our interviews with detained children present a child’s eye view of detention.

‘They vividly illustrate the effect of sudden arrest and detention on the wellbeing of children, and the extent of their fears and anxieties for themselves and their parents.

‘These are not matters that Yarl’s Wood managers can deal with alone; though more could be done to improve child protection practices in the centre.

‘They require a complete overhaul of the detention of children, informed by a proper understanding of the vulnerability of children and the safeguards required in domestic and international law.’

Owers report found many shortcomings in progress on the last inspection’s recommendations.

Safety: On the basis of this short follow-up inspection we considered that the IRC was still not performing sufficiently well . . . .

Purposeful activity: On the basis of this short follow-up inspection we considered that the IRC was still not performing sufficiently well . . . .

2.4: The detention of children should be exceptional and for no more than a few days.

Initial authorisation procedures should be strictly followed and an immediate independent welfare and needs assessment carried out, to set out a care plan and inform decisions on continued detention.

(HE.38) Not achieved.

High numbers of children were still being detained at the centre.

On the first day of the inspection there were 22 families in detention, including 32 children.

Seven children had been held for longer than 28 days, and three had been detained since December 2005.

2.7: No initial needs assessment was undertaken following the arrival of a child, and the first assessment did not begin until a child had been detained for a minimum of 14 days.

2.18: Apart from in exceptional circumstances, detainees should be notified immediately of decisions to transfer or remove, and in sufficient time to address the well being of any children involved. (HE.43) Not achieved.

2.21: The centre manager should seek the assistance of those with specific expertise in the detention of women, in order to develop systems and procedures that reflect those needs and to train staff to meet them. (HE.45) Not achieved.

2.41: The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (lND) should immediately investigate and consider any illnesses or conditions affecting a detainee raised under Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules. This process should be documented, and the detainee and the healthcare department notified of the outcome. (4.20) Not achieved.

2.105: Women detainees should have easy access to a female GP at regular clinics, and there should be notices, in a variety of languages, informing detainees of her availability. (6.39) Not achieved.

2.117 Primary mental health care services should be developed to provide a comprehensive service for detainees. (6.49) Not achieved.

2.123 There should be links with the children’s schools to gather background information on their prior educational experience and background. (7.31) Not achieved.

2.126 The range and quality of teaching resources to support children’s learning should be improved. (7.33) Not achieved.