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Yarl’s Wood IRC: a year of change and pressure

In its annual report for 2021, the Yarl’s Wood IMB notes the many challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the additional pressure of re-purposing the centre to hold men, and the arrival of large numbers of detained people for short periods of time.

The Board commends the way the centre has managed these challenges to provide a safe environment. The Board, however, raises the following concerns:

  • large numbers of detained persons passing quickly through the centre meant that the induction process had to be condensed, so the men’s understanding and expectations about their detention was not always clear.
  • the fact that detained people only stayed at Yarl’s Wood for short periods meant less opportunity for vulnerable adults to be properly identified, increasing the risk of them being released into the community or transferred to other centres without appropriate support in place.
  • there were inconsistent procedures for the notification, investigation and resolution of complaints.

The Board also highlights a number of positives during the year:

  • the processes put in place to protect detained people, the staff and visitors from Covid-19
  • the planning which allowed for swift provision of suitable temporary accommodation when large numbers of men arrived from the south coast
  • the quality of healthcare.

IMB Yarl’s Wood Chair, Sheila Hakes, said:

“During 2021, the centre was used as both an IRC for women and men and a residential short-term holding facility for men. Since December 2021, no women have been held in the centre. Several times during the year, the centre had to process large numbers of people arriving on small boats, and these challenges were exacerbated by units being closed for modifications or used for precautionary isolation for suspected Covid cases.

“The men did not always understand where they were or why they were being held and this led to some becoming anxious or frustrated. The IMB cannot stress enough how important it is that, for the sake of the men’s wellbeing and safety, inductions are clear and detailed and conducted in sufficient depth to spot any vulnerabilities.”