According to a new report from Women for Refugee Women there has been little change to the situation for women immigration detainees since the Home Office put a time limit on the detention of pregnant women and implemented an Adults at Risk policy. Its research found that every year, the Home Office locks up in immigration detention more than 1500 women who have come to the UK and sought asylum. For those women detention can be really traumatic, particularly if they have survived violence. Women for Refugee Women have gathered lots of evidence that asylum systems in other countries that don’t use detention can be more efficient and more humane.
Women for Refugee Women were hopeful that the policy changes might lead to a reduction in the detention of vulnerable women. But according to the report the Home Office hasn’t been open about how the policy is working in practice, so Women for Refugee Women decided to conduct their own research.
The findings of the report are disappointing. Women for Refugee Women talked to 26 women who have sought asylum and been detained since the policy came into force. The vast majority say that they are survivors of sexual or other gender-based violence, such as forced prostitution, FGM, or forced marriage.
From the interviews with these women that Women for Refugee Women carried, it appears that the Home Office has not put in place any kind of mechanism which will actively screen people before they are detained and find out if they are vulnerable. And if women disclose their prior experiences of violence once they are in detention they are often kept locked up. Take a look at this short video with ‘Vivian’, who was detaied in Yarl’s Wood. Read the full report.