Family wing at Yarl's Wood detention centre to close


Children will no longer be held at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire, the government has pledged.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told parliament the government would "close Yarl's Wood Detention Centre for good".

The Home Office then had to clarify that only the family unit would close, but the adult facility would stay open.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Clegg described the detention of children as a "moral outrage".

Mr Clegg said it was "simply a moral outrage that last year the Labour government imprisoned behind bars 1,000 children who were innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever".

He added: "This coalition government... will once again restore a sense of decency and liberty to the way in which we conduct ourselves.

"I can confirm that the government will come forward shortly with an announcement about how we will deliver on our pledge to end child detention and to close the Yarl's Wood detention centre for good."

But the Home Office later had to correct Mr Clegg's comment, saying Yarl's Wood will remain open, but the detention of children there would be stopped.

A Home Office spokesperson told BBC News: "We are currently working to find an alternative that protects the welfare of children, without undermining our immigration laws.

"Yarl's Wood family unit will be closed, but the centre will continue to function as an immigration removal facility for adults."

'Torture survivors'

Medical Justice, a charity which offers advice to asylum seekers in detention, welcomed the decision.

It said in a statement: "We agree with Nick Clegg that detaining children at Yarl's Wood is a 'moral outrage'.

"So too is the continued indefinite and arbitrary detention of vulnerable women at Yarl's Wood, including torture survivors, pregnant women, victims of trafficking and women with serious medical conditions, some of whom are denied adequate medical care.

"We believe that the harm being caused by Yarl's Wood is so extensive that the only solution is to close it down.

"We therefore call on the government to close Yarl's Wood in its entirety today."

Chief Inspector of Prisons Dame Anne Owers said earlier this year that some children had been held at the centre unnecessarily.

Yarl's Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families who are facing deportation.

There were almost two months of protests at the centre earlier this year, including occupations of corridors while some women refused food.

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