Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 10th February 2010.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Identity) 7:00 pm, 10th February 2010

I am not saying that; I am saying that such activity would be avoided. I have pointed out that someone is always there to ensure that the child's welfare is maintained, but sometimes, to ensure that a family are together and therefore the child is not at school and detained at school, which would be worse, it is important to ensure that the parents are with the child. This is a challenging area, and I can go into some of my plans to look at other options as the Minister now responsible for the matter, but there are important issues about whether we keep children with their parents. I should not want children to be separated from their parents, and, importantly, we must recognise that as part of the issue when detaining children: the parents refuse to leave, and they should take some responsibility for the situation.

Several hon. Members mentioned the incident at Yarl's Wood on Monday. I shall give the House some information about it and then explain the next steps that I am taking. A number of women in the centre began to refuse to eat food in the canteen over the weekend in protest at their detention. They congregated in a courtyard and corridor at lunchtime for several hours. Staff maintained open dialogue with them about their protest, and by early evening the centre returned to normality.

The incident's handling is subject to a management review, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment or speculate on the outcome at this stage. I want to see the outcome before I consider whether any next steps are necessary. My hon. Friend John McDonnell, who has given me his apologies because he has had to rush off to a constituency engagement, made a number of points. He talked about a tortuous legal system, as did my hon. Friend Ms Abbott, and I shall touch on that later.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington also raised the issue of people wanting to work, but that is not Government policy and we do not contemplate either an amnesty or rights to work for those who are liable to deportation. It is important that we get that straight. The people at that detention centre and anywhere else in the detention estate are there because they have refused to leave the country voluntarily. Some have turned down generous packages of support and chosen to take the detention route.

I also contest my hon. Friend's suggestion that people are moved from one place to another to evade representation by Members-I think that is what he meant, although I was not quite clear about his point. People are not moved from one place to another except to facilitate deportation. They may be moved from Yarl's Wood to a closer centre prior to a flight, but they are not moved without reason. Commercial confidentiality relates to what we pay for contracts, not to individual detainees. There is a degree of confidentiality in respect of detainees, just as there is on any other matter in the UK Border Agency, the Home Office or any part of Government, because we must ensure that we adhere to our data protection responsibilities.

My hon. Friend also wanted me to comment on whether there was any physical violence by staff towards detainees on Monday. I reassure him that there absolutely was not. The entire incident was witnessed by the independent monitoring board, which has raised no concerns, and captured on CCTV. Several hon. Members asked about that. The CCTV footage will be available to the IMB and management review. We have no secrets; there is nothing to hide in that respect. Let me also be clear that detainees were offered refreshment throughout. The four ringleaders are now in Colnbrook awaiting transfer to prison beds because of their disruptive behaviour.

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