23 January 2015

A report published by Women for Refugee Women has found that the UK government is detaining women who are survivors of rape, sexual violence and other forms of torture. Of the 34 women interviewed at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, 19 women said they had been raped; 21 women had experienced other sexual violence; 28 women said that they had experienced gender-related persecution (including rape, sexual violence, forced marriage, forced prostitution, or female genital mutilation).

Out of the 2,038 women who had come to the UK to seek asylum and were detained during 2013, 43% were held for more than a month with the average length of detention amounting to 93 days. Only 31% of these detained women were in fact removed from the UK, the rest re-entered British society to continue their asylum claims.

The report further highlights that 50% of the 34 women interviewed had been on suicide watch, 40% self-harmed and over half of the women did not know why they had been put in detention. 

Furthermore, the report notes the series of allegations of sexual assaults and violations of intimacy of female detainees at Yarl’s Wood.  Six women interviewed by Women for Refugee Women said that staff at Yarl’s Wood had made sexual suggestions to them, and three said that they were touched sexually. Almost all of the women interviewed said that men watched them in intimate situations such as while naked, partly dressed, in the shower or using the toilet.

In June 2014, the management of Yarl’s Wood said that 31 allegations of sexual contact had been investigated and 10 staff had been dismissed.

The report also notes that the cost for detaining an individual in an immigration removal centre for a year is £37,230.

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 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 23 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.