MP’s anger after request to visit immigration detention centre is turned down

Hornsey and Wood Green’s MP has hit out after her request to visit a controversial immigation detention centre was turned down.

Labour MP Catherine West had hoped to visit controversial detention centre Yarl’s Wood, but her request was turned down by the Ministry of Justice.

Ms West has now written to Home Secretary Theresa May to express her disappointment at being denied access to the Bedfordshire detention centre, where women and family groups are held while they await immigration clearance.

Recently elected Ms West said: “I’m appalled that as an MP I’m being denied the opportunity to visit Yarl’s Wood, and it concerns me that the Home Office is so keen to avoid scrutiny.

“My diverse constituency is home to 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 I have written to Theresa May to urge her to step in and get this decision overturned.

“The summer recess seemed to me like the perfect opportunity to do useful work like visiting the centre, so it’s very frustrating to me that I’ve been told I can’t.

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“As an MP, I believe I have a legitimate interest in seeing what goes on there. It’s not as though I would be going as a tourist.”

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire turned down Ms West’s request in an email, which said: “Requests to view Immigration and Removal Centres are carefully considered and planned to preserve the privacy and dignity of the individuals that are detained from a disproportionate number of visits.

“Generally visits are facilitated for the local constituency MP, and he last visited in March. But I’m afraid that we are not able to agree to a visit out of general interest in the centre.”

Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Centre, said: “We welcome MPs’ growing interest in Yarl’s Wood and are disappointed that the Home Office has refused permission to Catherine West to visit and see for herself how women, including survivors of sexual abuse and pregnant women, are treated in detention.”

Run by private security firm Serco, Yarl’s Wood has never been far from controversy since opening in 2001.

Almost 90 per cent of the detainees there are women, but around half the staff are male.

There have been several allegations of sexual and physical abuse made by women detained there.

Ms West is awaiting a reply from Theresa May, and said she intends to raise the matter in the House of Commons in a September debate on immigration detention.