Women inside Yarl's Wood IRC demand an end to brutal treatment by Serco


1. Many women in detention have suffered rape and other torture. According to the Immigration Services Operational Manual (Third EDN) if someone reports being a victim of rape or other torture they should be referred to a doctor for assessment.  This rarely happens.  Where women are referred, the medical staff ignore reports about rape or other torture they have suffered.  One woman was detained for over a year.  She reported to the doctor that she was a victim of sexual abuse in the UK who did little except advise her to see a mental health nurse.  She was eligible for counselling but only saw the counsellor twice.  Women are constantly told that there are no psychiatrists available even when women report suicidal feelings.

Vulnerable people should not be detained.  We demand that government guidelines are implemented.  Everyone who reports rape and other torture, or who has a history of mental illness/attempted suicide, depression and must be interviewed and assessed on arrival by an independent doctor with a view to their immediate release.

2. Women are isolated from resources and support from outside. It often takes a long time to get through to women on the phone.  When callers ask to speak to women they are not paged to come to the phone.  With the new phone system women say their pagers seldom work so women don't get their calls, including from lawyers.  One lawyer was told that a woman was not coming to the phone. He was ready to help her make a civil claim for the violence she suffered from the escorts during attempts to deport her.  The authorities put her in Kingfisher (the punishment wing) and deported her before she could speak with him.  This also happens with visitors.  Even when a visitor or call for an inmate is announced over the loud speaker many women cannot understand because they do not understand English well enough. When the visitors come they are kept waiting for long periods of time or even - particularly outrageously - told that the inmate doesn't want to see them.  The excuse for the delays is lack of staff to process visitors.

We demand that everyone should be provided with a working pager and they should be paged when they have a telephone call.  We also demand SERCO should have enough staff at all times.

3. There are many delegations of visitors to the Centre. Inmates see them being shown around but are never allowed to speak to them.  Serco staff won't tell women who the visitors are.   On some occasions the wings are locked so that detainees cannot speak to them.  This means that public visitors are not hearing from detainees about conditions in the removal Centre and are getting a biased and distorted view of who and why people are being kept in detention.

We demand to be allowed to speak with any visiting delegation and they should always be introduced to us.

4. Health care is in chaos. Doctors are only there from 9am until midday.  So from midday till 9am the following day (over 20 hours), there is no doctor available.  Most of the time when women go to the health centre, the nurses will say women are pretending and prescribe paracetamol even if when women complain of serious symptoms of ill health.   One woman went to the health centre with an acute swollen stomach for three days and was only prescribed Nurofen.  On one occasion other detainees were forced to call 999 because a woman was so sick but they were told that the emergency services would only respond to a call from staff. Someone with a tooth ache will have to wait for a full week as the dentists only comes once a week.

We demand to have a doctor at the centre all the time, and the dentists to be visit every day, we also demand an independent psychiatrist in the centre.

  1. SERCO are hiding families with children by segregating them from those of us on other wings. They are held in Crane Wing and we are not allowed to see or associate with them.  Nevertheless we hear from visitors and our supporters that children are suffering from frequent outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhoea - there are often signs on the wings confirming this.  We also hear of shocking brutality and violence by the guards.  Some children witness their parents being beaten during attempts to remove families who have come back from airports traumatised.  Mothers report that they have been separated from their children, eg when a mother complained about the ill-treatment of another mother, she and her family were punished.  They were isolated in Kingfisher without their four-year old son.  When they were reunited, their son was in shock and had scratches on his hands.  They made an official complaint which is still being investigated.

We demand freedom of association across the wings and an independent investigation into what Crane are hiding [doing to families] on Crane Wing. We also demand an end to the detention of families with children.

  1. Since SERCO took over the running of the Centre the food has deteriorated. For the first three months different menus were provided like Chinese, Jamaican and North African food.  After three months this stopped and now the menu is exactly the same day after day - fish, chicken, beef.  There is no option for vegetarians. On some occasions the staff serving the food do not wear protective clothing over their hair and one woman has a rash over her arms.  Detainees can see into the kitchen and can see that food preparation surfaces are dirty.  There is a meeting once a month to discuss food and health care where women raise their problems but nothing changes so women have stopped attending these meetings.

We demand a varied menu and more options for vegetarians, the hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchen is bad and must be improved.

  1. When someone is being deported and she refuses to go, 10 officers will come to drag her out. Some ladies are dragged out when they are naked. The inmates believe that people are injected with drugs by the nurses, because if somebody refuses to go the guards call the nurses and when a nurse get in the room the lady who is to be deported if she was screaming suddenly goes quiet.  Young children often witness violence on their parents and older children have also been attacked.

We demand an end to violent removals and that nurses should stop injecting them.  People being deported should be treated with dignity.

  1. The staff often treat women in a rude and racist way. Abusive comments by staff are common. Ladies who can't speak English find it very hard to communicate because staff laugh at them so even if they have problems they fear to approach the staff and nobody else to help. There is systematic discrimination of women if they comment or complain or when they resist brutal treatment.  Most of inmates live in fear of being targeted so when they have a problem they suffer with it because if they speak their mind and complain they are going to be targeted and their movements monitored and they can end up in the segregation wing (Kingfisher) or transferred to another centre or deported.

We demand that racist and discriminatory officers be exposed, disciplined, and sacked if they persist in abusing women.  We demand sympathetic staff who will ensure that women who have no English can still communicate their needs.