Catherine West MP has written to the Home Secretary today to express her disappointment at the Home Office’s refusal to let her visit Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and to urge her to intervene.
As the new Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, Catherine first wrote to the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire on 17 June to request a visit to see conditions at the centre for herself. Two months later she was finally told that her request had been denied.
The response from the Home Office said that all requests are “carefully considered” to protect the privacy of those detained and that “we are not able to agree to a visit out of general interest in the centre”.
Catherine West MP said “I’m appalled that as a Member of Parliament I’m being denied the opportunity to visit Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and it concerns me that the Home Office is so keen to avoid scrutiny. My diverse constituency is home to many people from all over the world and the conditions of vulnerable women being held in centres like Yarl’s Wood is an important issue here. I want to see this for myself and have written to Theresa May to urge her to step in and get this decision overturned”
Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women said: ‘We are disappointed that the Home Office has refused permission to Catherine West MP to visit Yarl’s Wood detention centre and see for herself how women, including survivors of sexual violence and pregnant women, are treated in detention. This shows a worrying lack of transparency about what is happening in Yarl’s Wood and suggests that the Home Office feels that there is something to hide. We welcome MPs’ growing interest in Yarl’s Wood and their desire to see for themselves what is going on. Our research suggests that too many survivors of sexual violence and torture are locked up for long periods and that detention is extremely distressing as well as unnecessary. On 10 September there will be a backbench debate in Parliament about immigration detention; this has become an urgent concern for MPs in all parties and we feel it is time for the Home Office to respond transparently and positively to calls for reform.’