In the same week that Trump’s immigration detention centres in the US face heavy criticism from politicians the world media alike, Caroline Lucas has visited and condemned Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre and the UK’s policy on indefinite detention of immigrants to almost no fanfare.
Yarl’s Wood is one of the largest immigration detention centres in Europe, and houses over 400 “adult women and adult family groups awaiting immigration clearance.”
Based in Bedfordshire, the centre is managed by Serco, a public services company whose centre is cited as delivering “services on behalf of the Home Office Immigration Enforcement,” and is not obligated by UK law to give its detainees a time limit on their detention.
Caroline Lucas, Green party co-leader and MP for the Brighton Pavilion, visited the centre last week and described an atmosphere of “so much misery, so much despair, so much hopelessness,” saying also that she was “still in a state of incredible shock” in a video posted to Twitter.
“What’s going on there is nothing short of psychological torture. These people, often not even knowing why they’ve been picked up, certainly not knowing how long they’re going to be there.
“People who have lived in the UK for years and years and have family here, who have been based here, lived their lives here perfectly legally, suddenly being picked up and deposited in Yarl’s Wood.
“We’ve seen all of the chaos surrounding the Windrush scandal, and to my mind there’s another scandal unfolding right here inside Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.”
In the Twitter video, Lucas expressed her anger at the fact that the UK is “the only country in Europe that has indefinite detention,” before adding, “that is mental torture. That should end, and Yarl’s Wood should close.”
Yarl’s Wood’s homepage states that its promise is one of “respect, support, and commitment”, however, this is not the first time the detention centre has come under controversy. It has been criticised for its use of £1ph labour from detainees, hunger strikes earlier in the year in response to living conditions, as well as debates in the House of Commons as to whether detainment without authorisation from a judge is a policy that the government wants to proceed with.
In a parliamentary debate in March, MPs such as the SNP’s Stuart McDonald and Labour’s David Lammy protested the UK’s policy on indefinite detention, and McDonald raised the question as to how “every other EU country can manage with a time limit on immigration detention, but not the UK?”
Lammy also asserted that “the possibility that the Government will accelerate deportation on that basis must be contrary to human rights.”
A Home Office spokesperson has said on the subject: “we do not detain individuals indefinitely. When people are detained, it is for the minimum time possible and detention is reviewed on a regular basis. Any decision to maintain detention is made on a case by case basis but their welfare remains of the utmost importance throughout.”
Reports suggest that the government paper establishing Britain’s post-Brexit immigration policy will be published around September, after talks with the Migration Advisory Committee, and groups such as Liberty and Amnesty are pushing to put an end to indefinite detention in the UK.