Yarl’s Wood detains too many pregnant women, prisons inspector says

Domiciliary Prisonoriginally by: The Guardian
published: 7th Dec 2011

The detention of “too many” pregnant women at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre has been heavily criticised by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick. Hardwick particularly highlighted the case of one pregnant detainee who had endured a four-day journey from Belfast to Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire via Scotland and Manchester airport, where she had collapsed.

The privately-run centre was the scene of a major riot and fire in 2002 and is now the main detention centre for women facing deportation from Britain. At the time of the inspection in July, it held 229 women and 27 male partners. Children have not been held there since December 2010.

Hardwick said in a report published on Wednesday that there were seven pregnant women at Yarl’s Wood at the time of his inspection, despite the fact that they should only be held in exceptional circumstances.

“We reviewed the UK Border Agency files for five of them. Only one of the monthly review letters mentioned pregnancy and even that one suggested that the pregnancy was disputed, although it had been confirmed for some time,” the report said.

“Too many pregnant women, who should only have been held in exceptional circumstances, were detained in the centre,” it said.

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