Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 6:48 pm, 10th February 2010

There is nothing wrong with Haringey council.

The hon. Gentleman's humanitarian instincts are of the highest order, and I congratulate him on the way he has represented the issues concerning the detention centre and what goes with it.

We are dealing with a fundamental issue of human rights. As hon. Members have pointed out, the detention of children is something that we would condemn unreservedly if it were happening in any other country, or under any other regime around the world. Obviously, when I hear Ministers fulminate about the detention of children in other regimes, I join them in doing so, because the detention of children is fundamentally wrong.

My hon. Friend Ms Abbott was right to point out that we are signatories to the European convention on human rights and to the UN convention on the rights of the child. Indeed, there is a big monument in the middle of Hyde park that proclaims how well we treat children and how good our views about their treatment around the world are. However, we cannot hold our heads high and say we support international conventions if at the same time we detain children here. That fetters our ability to criticise regimes that, in respect of human rights, behave in a way we do not support.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, I have visited Yarl's Wood. I am not here to criticise the centre's staff, because that is not the point of the debate. Nor do I wish to criticise how they work, as many of them are extremely caring and good people, but they are in an utterly impossible situation. They are given families with children to look after yet-regardless of the toys that they can offer or the activities that they undertake-the people involved are still locked up, as the hon. Member for North-East Bedfordshire was absolutely right to say. The prison key system with the doors that he described is always there, which means that people are not free to move around and travel. It is right to say that we ought to be better than that, and I hope that the Minister will give us some hope about what will happen in the future.

Another point that I hope the Minister will be able to answer when she replies to the debate has to do with the fact that people's experience of detention centres in this country is not a happy one. There have been many cases of disturbances, riots, near-riots, hunger strikes and protests. People in the centres suffer from utter boredom, and utter desolation because they do not know what is going to happen to them. The problem is especially severe for people who are faced with removal to regimes that will not accept them, because they end up staying in the centres for months on end. That is a cause of considerable concern.

I understand that there have been further demonstrations and a hunger strike in Yarl's Wood over the past few days. I should be grateful if the Minister informed the House about the current situation, and told us what representations she has received from other organisations and agencies.

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