Backbench Business — Immigration Detention

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 10th September 2015.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley 1:41 pm, 10th September 2015

While I have been exceptionally moved by all the stories I have heard since I joined the debate from Committee, the story told by my hon. Friend Louise Haigh in particular highlighted some of the effects of detention suffered by young men. However, I want to focus very much on the detention of women.

As I said, I visited Yarl’s Wood detention centre in August, completely freely—I was allowed to go because I did not ask the Government whether I could go, but had arranged to visit residents with a refugee women’s organisation. I went to see an individual who had been detained there and then deported and who, when she returned, was detained there again. When I arrived, I was told that I was not allowed to see her because she had been released—which I was utterly delighted by, to be perfectly honest. I then made a request to visit another inmate. When I was talking to her, I found out a few startling things about the place and about her case.

The woman had been there for four months—long beyond any 28-day period. She had come from Nigeria, seeking asylum due to her sexuality—she told me a horrific story, which does not bear repeating, about why she had to come here. When she arrived, brought here by somebody she trusted, she was kept in a cellar in London for two years and repeatedly raped by men who had paid to have sex with her. This woman is a victim of human trafficking. As somebody with some expertise in this field, I asked her why she had not qualified for the national referral mechanism for human trafficking, which would certainly not have detained her, but given her a 60-day reflection period, along with benefits and support. She said that two inconsistencies in her story meant that she was not believed to be a victim of trafficking and, because she had known the person who brought her here, she had not qualified.

I have met lots of victims in my life, many from this country. Let us imagine having to give evidence—to tell the same story over and over again—in a language other than our mother tongue. Things are going to get confused; and maybe, in a room in Solihull or Croydon, people do not want to talk to the man behind the desk about how they were ritually raped. It was easy for me to do a basic risk assessment for this woman and find that she was a victim of a horrific crime. I am delighted to say that the next day she was released from Yarl’s Wood. I am no conspiracy theorist, but it seems a bit suspicious that every person I have been to see has been released, so I plan on visiting every woman in Yarl’s Wood over the next few weeks.