Yarl's Wood: 'Concern' over claims of excessive force

Yarl's Wood detention centre Image copyright South Beds News Agency

A recent incident at the Yarl's Wood detention centre has given HM Inspectorate of Prisons "considerable concern", the BBC has learned.

Detainees say guards broke up a peaceful protest with excessive force two weeks ago, but Serco, the company which runs the Bedfordshire centre for the Home Office, denies this.

One guard involved with the incident has been suspended ahead of an inquiry.

The Home Office says its professional standards unit will investigate.

Bedfordshire police said their inquiry found no offence had taken place.

Officials from the independent HM Inspectorate of Prison, which is currently carrying out an inspection of Yarl's Wood, said their concerns arose from CCTV footage of the incident.

A lawyer for the detainees said a small group of women were staging a peaceful protest in a bedroom with a Kenyan asylum seeker, who was about to be deported. The facility houses up to 400 women under threat of deportation.

Detainees claim dozens of staff in riot gear dragged them out, and that one guard used the edge of his riot shield to hit them on their legs and feet.

Serco said staff had believed the women were armed with cutlery, so the guards had worn protective clothing.

Serco said there was a question over whether a guard had used his shield appropriately. He has now been suspended pending an investigation.

Two members of the facility's staff were suspended last month following allegations of abuse.

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