After a Channel 4 News investigation finds inappropriate behaviour by staff at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, the Home Office calls for guards to start wearing video cameras as soon as possible.
Exclusive undercover filming revealed numerous incidents of self-harm, questions over standards of healthcare provided to detainees and guards showing open contempt for detainees.
The centre, which holds nearly 400 detainees, is not a prison. Many residents are awaiting decisions on their immigration status. Some are awaiting deportation.
The secret filming, shot over a period of months, showed staff referring to inmates as “animals” and “b**tches”. One guard, says of an inmate “headbutt the b**ch”, adding “I’d beat her up”.
See the report in full - Yarl's Wood: undercover in the secretive immigration centre
Following the broadcast of the Channel 4 News investigation on 2 March, the company Serco, which runs Yarl’s Wood, said that former barrister Kate Lampard would carry out an independent review of the work done there.
On Wednesday the Home Office said it had asked Serco “to accelerate their work to ensure that detention centre staff coming into contact with detainees wear body-worn video cameras.”
On Wednesday Channel 4 News broadcast more undercover video, this time from the UK’s biggest detention centre at Harmondsworth. The footage, shot by an detainee over three months, includes video of a man begging to be deported.
Speaking on the phone to his case worker the man says “I beg you please, I don’t want to take my own life” adding “I beg you. I’m tired, I don’t want to die here. I want freedom”.
The secret filming reveals that the company running Harmondsworth, Mitie, is introducing what it calls efficiency measures, meaning detainees will be locked in their cells for 12 hours a day, rather than 10 hours a day at present.
One disgruntled staff member is heard complaining that Mitie was “just p***ing off everybody.”
The footage also shows a man who has just had an epileptic fit. Voices in the video say this is the third seizure the man has had in less than three weeks, raising questions about the government’s detention policies as people with serious illnesses are only supposed to be detained in “exceptional circumstances”.
Responding to the latest allegations about conditions at Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood, the Home Office said in a statement: “the dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance – we will accept nothing but the highest standards from companies employed to manage the detention estate.”
It said that an independent review of detainees’ welfare, to be led by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, was commissioned by the Home Secretary last month, and invited Channel 4 News to share its video evidence with that review.
The statement continued:
“Channel 4’s reports this week have raised a number of serious allegations about the conduct of staff employed by detention estate contractors. We expect all of the companies concerned to carry out thorough and immediate investigations into these allegations and we will not hesitate to take whatever action we think appropriate in response.”