Response to fire and disturbances at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre from Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council. - Refugee Council
February 15, 2002

Response to fire and disturbances at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre from Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council.

Refugee Council statement

“The fire and disturbances were clearly an extremely dangerous incident that could have had tragic consequences for refugees and staff alike.

“There are still conflicting reports on how it all started, but we’re extremely concerned about statements that the Home Office ignored advice from the fire service regarding the structure of the roof and the need for a sprinkler system. Such advice could have dramatically restricted the spread of the fire.

“We don’t condone any criminal act. Any allegations of criminal acts should be investigated and dealt with by the police and the courts.

“What must happen as a result of this is a fundamental rethink of the Government’s detention policy. We’re bitterly disappointed with the proposals to withdraw the automatic right to a bail hearing for detainees announced in last week’s White Paper on asylum and immigration. The UK detains more people, for longer and with less scrutiny than any other country in Europe.

“We don’t think it’s right that people who are not suspected, let alone accused of committing a crime – or where there’s no evidence that they’re likely to abscond – should be arbitrarily detained for indefinite periods of time.

“At Yarl’s Wood families with children and others will have been innocently caught up in these very dangerous events when in fact they should never have been there in the first place.

“The key to resolving the tensions that inevitably occur in detention centres is to ensure people feel they have access to legal redress for what they feel is their unjust detention. Otherwise they will be left feeling the situation is hopeless.”

ENDS

Further information:

Read the Refugee Council response to the opening of Yarl’s Wood
See the BBC’s report