Asylum seekers will give evidence of poor treatment directly from their detention centres in a cross-party inquiry into the UK immigration system to be launched tomorrow.
Sarah Teather, the former children's minister, set up the investigation following claims of sexual abuse in centres such as Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire. The Lib Dem MP is also concerned by "persistent allegations of lack of access to healthcare".
In December, 2,796 people were held in centres, up 4 per cent on the end of 2012. Around half were asylum seekers awaiting the outcomes of applications to stay in the UK as refugees.
Jon Cruddas, Labour's policy chief, and former environment secretary Caroline Spelman are among others sitting on the inquiry. Ms Teather said: "I wanted a credible team to take a thoughtful look at detention centres: how can we do this better, more efficiently, cheaper?" Hearings start later this month and the report is expected to be published early next year.