Yarls Wood Hunger Strike

3 August 2010, 08:08 | Updated: 3 August 2010, 09:04

More than 100 people in an immigration centre were on hunger strike today.

Officials at the UK Border Agency confirmed they were "monitoring'' the situation at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire after detainees refused their evening meal.

Jonathan Sedgwick, UKBA deputy chief executive, said: "We can confirm 108 detainees have refused prepared meals from staff yesterday evening. However they still have access to food from the on-site shop and vending machines."

He added: "Staff are monitoring the situation closely and listening to the detainees' concerns.  All detainees have access to legal representation and 24-hour medical care.''

The Yarl's Wood site holds people awaiting deportation but has been strongly criticised over reports that children have been denied medical treatment, subjected to violence and forced to undress in front of officers of the opposite sex.

Yarl's Wood has 284 beds for women and 121 family bed spaces, according to the UKBA.

The centre, on the outskirts of Clapham, was originally opened in November 2001.

In February 2002 half of the building was damaged by fire. The undamaged half reopened in September 2003.

Last month, the Home Office was forced to clarify comments by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after he told MPs the centre was to close.

Officials swiftly pointed out that only the family unit at Yarl's Wood would in fact shut, and the centre would "continue to function as an immigration removal facility for adults."