Majority of women held at Yarl’s Wood are later released into community, prison watchdog reveals

The majority of women held at controversial detention centre Yarl’s Wood are later released into the community, raising concerns as to why they were ever detained, according to the UK’s prison watchdog.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that in the first six months of 2017, 67 per cent of female detainees had been released into the community – which, the report noted, “raised questions about the justification for detention in the first place”.

Inspectors also raised concerns over the continued detention of women who had been tortured and two responses where the Home Office had refused, without explanation, to accept that rape came within the legal definition of torture.

Weaknesses in the handling of immigration casework by the Home Office, as well as some problems with health care at the centre, were also having a “significant negative impact” on detainees, according to inspectors.

Opposition politicians said the report exposes the Home Office for continuing to “systematically fail” the women at Yarl’s Wood with a detention system that is “inhumane and unnecessarily harsh”.

The inspection follows a report in 2015 that publicised allegations of abuse by staff. Inspectors said the most noticeable change in 2017 was that the atmosphere across the centre was far calmer, more respectful and relaxed. 

But they still raised some serious concerns about the length of time women were detained and failure by the Home Office to carry out adequate assessments of vulnerable detainees, who according to new Government guidelines shouldn’t be held in detention.

These failings were leading to the continued detention of women who had been tortured, the report noted. Almost a fifth of those in detention were assessed by the Home Office to be at the higher levels of risk in terms of vulnerability, yet they were still being held.

Inspectors also found that in two vulnerability assessments – which are known as Rule 35 responses –…

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