On the 9th of February, the Home Office announced its decision to abandon expansion plans for Yarl’s Wood asylum accommodation on the immigration detention centre site.
In a message to Yarl’s wood consultants, Deborah Chitten, the Home Office’s director of strategy stated: ‘We worked at pace to stand up the site as part of our winter contingency planning to ensure we had sufficient capacity across the system to meet expected demand. It is now clear that we do not need to use the additional capacity at this location at this time.’
The news was announced the day before former Labour candidate and Care4Calais volunteer, Rosie Newbigging was set to issue a claim for judicial review, after receiving no response to her pre-action letter.
Her letter outlined the Home Secretary’s actions and how they were in breach of the current planning conditions in place at Yarl’s Wood. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel was also accused of breaching the public sector equality duty by building the claustrophobic and ‘camp-style accommodation’ for vulnerable individuals with zero access to community support.
Louise Jackson, a Bedford Councillor believes the plans have been stopped due to cramped conditions and the lack of COVID precautions. She also said ‘I just hope that they won’t try to replicate the Yarl’s Wood asylum camp somewhere else. It’s very hard to see how accommodating people in this manner can ever be made safe in a pandemic.’
The scrapped plans come as a relief to asylum advocates, local MPs and the communities in Bedford Boroughs who opposed the expansion plans. Mohammed Yasin, the MP for Bedford and Kempston expressed his relief regarding the decision. He also said the government’s decision was a ‘new low for the Home Office and I will be pushing for an explanation for this dramatic change in policy which is straight out of the Trump playbook.’
Louise Jackson, a Bedford Councillor believes the plans have been stopped due to cramped conditions and the lack of COVID precautions
Clare Mosely, Care4Calais founder, described the government’s decision as ‘a victory for everyone who believes that asylum seekers should be treated with dignity and respect.’
Care4Calais thanked all who signed the organisation’s Yarl’s Wood petition, although they are still calling for the closure of the Yarl’s Wood detention centre. This is due to the ongoing conditions which are described as ‘grim’ due to the regular hunger strikes, sexual abuse claims and the countless failed inspections that have occurred since its opening in 2001.
Women for Refugee Women also advocates for the closure of Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres. The charity has issued a report regarding the increasing amount of trafficking survivors locked up in Home Office detention centres.
‘It’s very hard to see how accommodating people in this manner can ever be made safe in a pandemic.’
Policy and Research Coordinator at Women for Refugee Women, Gemma Lousley, stated how ‘the ‘reform’ of the detention system and minor policy changes will not stop people who are vulnerable from being detained. The only way to achieve this is to dismantle the UK’s institutionally racist and cruel immigration detention system.’
[Header image: Womeninbeyond.org]