Yarl's Wood to take single male detainees from 2012

Yarl's Wood detention centre Male detainees are to return to Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre next year

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Single male detainees are to return to Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in 2012 for the first time in 10 years, the UK Border Agency has said.

Since a fire in 2002, the centre has housed only single women and families awaiting immigration clearance.

The decision to re-introduce men comes after it was ruled that children must not be held at the Bedfordshire centre.

The UK Border Agency said that "lessons have been learnt" since single men were last accommodated there.

Yarl's Wood Removal Centre, situated between the villages of Clapham and Milton Ernest, cost £100m to build and opened in November 1991 to house 900 immigration detainees.

Half the building was damaged by a fire in February 2002, following a disturbance by detainees which caused £42m of damage and led to the centre's closure for more than a year.

'Much has changed'

The undamaged part of the building reopened in September 2003 for adult women and families. There are currently 405 bed spaces for single females, couples and adult dependants.

Following an inspection report in November 2009 which criticised the detention of children at the centre, the UKBA confirmed In December 2010 that Yarl's Wood would close to children "with immediate effect".

The re-introduction of single men will make use of the resulting empty space.

The director for detention services at the UK Border Agency, Alan Kittle, said that "much has changed in the way detainees are cared for" since single men were last accommodated there.

"The number of spaces will be limited to 38 and the length of stay capped at five days," he said.

"The men, who are at the beginning of the asylum process, will be held in a discrete unit segregated from other residents, with their own facilities.

"This, together with increased staffing levels and improvements to the facility, means that Yarl's Wood is a very different centre. [It] plays an important role in our immigration system and will continue to do so in the future."

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