BBC News

Yarl's Wood: Women no longer held as centre repurposed for Channel migrants

By Jon Ironmonger
BBC Look East

Published
image captionImmigration Removal Centre at Yarl's Wood is based in Bedfordshire

Yarl's Wood is no longer being used as an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) for women and has been repurposed to house Channel migrants, the BBC understands.

Sources suggest the last few female detainees left the site, near Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire, last week.

In May, the population of Yarl's Wood and other IRCs was reduced dramatically as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now the centre is being used to house dozens of Channel migrants to check their health and immigration status.

It is thought a lack of capacity in Dover is also behind the move.

Yarl's Wood, which opened in 2001, can hold around 400 detainees. The vast majority of them are women.

The Home Office said it would continue to seek the removal of women who were in the country illegally.

Eulalee Pennant, 62, who was detained there for seven weeks during the Windrush scandal in 2018 said: "I am glad there are no female detainees left.

"What will make me feel better is for it to shut down completely. It is a waste of tax-payers' money."

image copyrightEPA
image captionYarl's Wood will now accommodate migrants who have been arriving in the UK at ports such as Dover

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Owing to action as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of women in detention in the UK is low.

"We are currently housing this small group in immigration detention accommodation with facilities for women other than Yarl's Wood."

The former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbot, said Yarl's Wood had been "jinxed from the start" after a major fire in 2002.

She said when she visited the centre last year she found many women were being "held without good reason".

"Had I become Home Secretary, I would have definitely closed the place," she added.

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Related Topics

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