Yarl's Wood: Banner alleging sexual impropriety by guards hung from inside centre

A number of sexual violence allegations have previously been made against Yarl's Wood. Serco, who operate the centre, deny that such incidences are widespread

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The Independent Online

Detainees at Yarl’s Wood centre appear to have hung a banner from the building claiming that staff are behaving with sexual impropriety towards occupants of the centre.

The make-shift banner was hung out of a window during a protest against the centre yesterday. Appearing to have been painted onto a towel or a bed sheet, the banner read: “Yarl’s Wood officers in relationships with vulnerable detainees.”

Thousands of protestors gathered outside the controversial detention centre in Bedfordshire to demand its closure yesterday afternoon. The crowd chanted, let off coloured flares and formed a chain around the building. From inside, some of the detainees were seen to wave their hands in acknowledgement. 

The Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is a detention centre where foreign nationals are held for long periods prior to deportation from the UK. Its occupants are primarily women and children, many of whom came to the UK fleeing torture and abuse, including sexual violence. 

A number of allegations of sexual abuse have been made against the centre. Women have reported being touched sexually, male guards entering women’s rooms late at night and male guards in positions of power over the women propositioning them sexually. 

Last year, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo, said that she had been prevented by the UK government from inspecting the centre.

Serco, the outsourcing company which operates Yarl’s Wood for the Home Office, denies that such instances are widespread.

Janelle Brown, a member of Sisters Uncut, an activist group protesting state sanctioned violence against women, told The Independent: “The devastating sign we saw being hung from the windows by the women inside saying ‘officers in relationships with vulnerable women’ confirms what we already knew- Yarl’s Wood is the embodiment of racist, sexist state violence against women.

“Immigration detention replicates the torturous, coercive powers of domestic violence- male guards that control and abuse women trapped at Yarl’s Wood are no different to the perpetrators of domestic violence who abuse women trapped in their own homes. No woman should ever have to face such invasive brutality. Yarl’s Wood should be shut down.”

The Independent has contacted the Home Office for comment.