Beds, Herts & Bucks

Yarl's Wood: Second worker suspended after abuse allegations

Secretly filmed footage by Channel 4 News inside Yarl's Wood Image copyright Channel 4 News
Image caption Channel 4 News secretly filmed footage inside Yarl's Wood

A second member of staff has been suspended at Yarl's Wood detention centre following allegations of abuse, Home Office Minister Karen Bradley has told MPs.

Undercover filming by Channel 4 News showed staff referring to inmates as "animals", "beasties" and "bitches".

In the House of Commons, Ms Bradley said a second staff member had been suspended from the Bedfordshire centre.

She added operator Serco had commissioned a review of its culture.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Yarl's Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families facing deportation

Speaking in Parliament, Ms Bradley said: "Serco immediately suspended one member of staff who could be identified from information available before broadcast and have suspended another having seen the footage.

"The company has also commissioned an independent review of its culture and staffing at Yarl's Wood."

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for an independent inquiry into conditions at Yarl's Wood which holds women and families facing deportation.

She told the Commons: "This is state-sanctioned abuse of women on the Home Secretary's watch and it needs to end now."

'They're all animals'

Former barrister Kate Lampard is to carry out the independent review, Serco said.

In the undercover footage broadcast on Monday, one guard said: "They're animals. They're beasties. They're all animals. Caged animals. Take a stick with you and beat them up. Right?"

A Freedom of Information Act request by Channel 4 News also revealed there were 74 separate incidents of self-harm needing medical treatment at the centre in 2013.

Image caption Ms Bradley said the most recent inspection of Yarl's Wood found it to be a "safe and respectful centre"

The minister said Home Office officials had already visited the detention centre and highlighted the high standards expected of staff.

She said: "A sense of fairness must always be at the heart of our immigration system, including for those we are removing from the UK. That is why the allegations made by Channel 4 about Serco staff at Yarl's Wood are serious and deeply concerning.

"As soon as we were made aware of recent allegations, Home Office officials visited Yarl's Wood to provide assurances all detainees were being treated in a safe and dignified manner."

Ms Bradley said the most recent inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found Yarl's Wood to be a "safe and respectful centre which is continuing to improve", while an independent panel also raised no concerns.

James Thorburn, managing director of Serco's home affairs business, which manages Yarl's Wood, said: "We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate."

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