13 August 2015 | Herpreet Grewal
The controversial Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire has deteriorated since its last inspection, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons.
In a report of an unannounced inspection of the Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) for women published this month, Hardwick states that the running of the centre was "improving, although significant concerns remained".
The centre is run by support services provider Serco with health services provided by G4S.
The report states: "Yarl's Wood had become more complex and challenging to manage since the last inspection."
It adds: "A new contract with reduced staffing levels was being introduced and inspectors were concerned that staffing levels were insufficient." The report also says "most use of force was well managed, but inspectors were concerned about one incident in which an officer appeared to use excessive force".
The report also states that "the short-term holding facility was decent and clean, staff were professional" and "security was generally thoughtful and proportionate and some of the most intrusive elements of physical security had been removed".
Hardwick said: "Yarl's Wood is rightly a place of national concern. We should not make the mistake of blaming this on the staff on the ground. While there have been instances of unacceptable individual behaviour, most staff work hard to mitigate the worst effects of detention and women told us they appreciated this.
"However, Yarl's Wood is failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable women held. These are issues that need to be addressed at a policy and strategic management level."
A protest took place in August at the harsh treatment of detainees.
A Home Office spokesman said: "A number of the findings in this report are extremely disappointing. Working with our partners, we want to make sure standards in the centre improve, especially regarding the provision and delivery of healthcare."
He added: "Serco and G4S healthcare have moved swiftly to accept and act on the operational recommendations."
The Home Secretary has also commissioned an independent review of detainees' welfare to be conducted by the former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw. This is expected to be completed in the autumn.