By Alex Cisneros
Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, last month visited the UK on a 16-day fact-finding mission into violence against women. As part of this visit, she attempted to see Yarl’s Wood, an immigration detention center in Bedfordshire, but was told that she was to be refused entry. The order came “from the highest levels of the Home Office”.
Lord Ramsbotham yesterday in the House of Lords expressed his concern over the exclusion. Lord Ramsbotham has previously raised questions about the treatment of detainees in the immigration center and shared Manjoo’s opinion that “if there was nothing to hide, she should have been given access”.
Under the terms of her mandate Manjoo should have been offered unrestricted access. Lord Taylor, speaking for the Home Office, however said a tour of Yarl’s Wood “was never agreed as part of this fact-finding mission” and that Manjoo had turned down several other options offered by the government, including a trip to a women’s refuge. The Government’s suggested that detention in Yarl’s Wood is not directly connected to violence against women rings hollow after seven members of staff were sacked from Yarl’s Wood last year following sexual abuse of detainees and research suggests that over half of detainees are survivors of sexual violence or torture.
We remain concerned about the situation in Yarl’s Wood and will continue to press the Government to ensure that immigration detention is transparent and open.
On 1 April 2014 members of this #TeamCEDAW project presented concerns that Yarl’s Wood failed to comply with international standards for the detention of women to Rashida Manjoo, at a meeting alongside barristers from Garden Court Chambers and Frances Trevena from Rights of Women: