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21 May 2014, 06:00
Recent sexual assault allegations made by an inmate at the Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre near Bedford need to be investigated with more transparency.
Alistair Burt has told Heart the "allegations of serious of alleged sexual abuse are serious and deserve further investigation."
The North East Bedfordshire MP said: "The latest allegations concerning Yarl's Wood, that Serco sought to withhold information about its' inquiry into alleged sexual assault, are serious and deserve further investigation".
The concerns centre on a woman being held at the site near Bedford, who alleged a case of sexual assault against one of the officers, but Mr Burt was concerned the investigation INTO the allegation wasn't made public.
Mr Burt added: "I have known Yarl's Wood since it opened and over the years it has changed markedlyl, responding to earlier criticisms. It is regularly monitored, notably by independent local monitors, and there is a strong core of local befrienders who have all played a part in improving the regime there.
The most recent formal inspection also showed improvement in the care of detainees.
But allegations of such seriousness as sexual assault cannot be treated as anything but the most serious, and they demand not 'reputation management' by lawyers by an open approach to all inquiry after the health and safety of those detained."
The Home Office and Yarl's Wood authorities should agree to a Select Committee inquiry, and access by serious representative bodies.
In the main, Yarl's Wood suffers because it has the most difficult task of the immigration system to perform - removing women who the law has judged have no right to remain in the UK. But any individual allegation of abuse of power in relation to vulnerable women must have an inquiry process above reproach, which does not appear to be the case here.
In these circumstances it is essential, if it has nothing to hide, to submit to a further inquiry and inspection and allow the air to be cleared."
Norman Abusin, Serco's Director at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, said: "Sexual contact between residents and staff is always completely unacceptable. We view any complaint of this type of behaviour extremely seriously and have strict procedures for dealing with any such complaints: they are always investigated and the necessary disciplinary action is always taken, including informing the relevant authorities.
Our managers and staff work hard to establish and maintain good relationships with the residents. The most recent HM Chief Inspector of Prisons inspection report, issued in October 2013, considered it to be an establishment where residents feel safe and there is little violence. However, we are not complacent and make continuous improvements to the services we provide."