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A new report by Women for Refugee Women ‘Detained: Women asylum seekers locked up in the UK’ explores the experiences of 46 women who have sought asylum and been detained in the UK.  72% of the 46 women interviewed said they had been raped in their home countries, 41% that they had been tortured, 85% that they had been either raped or tortured.


Home Office guidelines say that victims of torture should only be detained in ‘exceptional circumstances’.  The evidence in the report suggests that victims of torture and rape are being detained routinely.

The 46 page report shows:

  • Suicidal Despair 83% of the women interviewed said that they felt depressed and more than half thought about killing themselves. One in five said they had tried to kill themselves in detention. One third had been on suicide watch in detention.
  • Male staffing  Most of the women interviewed had been guarded by male staff, and 70% of them said that this made them feel uncomfortable. Women reported that male staff had guarded them on suicide watch and that they were looked at on the toilet and in the shower, and  that male guards came into their rooms without knocking.
  • Indefinite detention Immigration detention is indefinite, there is no set tariff. Within the report’s sample the longest stay was 11 months and the average nearly three months. Home Office statistics show that of the 1,867 women who had sought asylum and left detention in 2012, 40% had been detained for more than a month.

WRW believes that no asylum seeker should be detained while their claim is being considered. On the way to making this a reality they recommend the following:

  1. Women who state they have experienced rape, sexual violence and other torture should not be detained while their claims are being considered.
  2. There should be no male staff employed in Yarl’s Wood where they come into contact with women detainees.
  3. If refused asylum seekers are detained immediately prior to removal, this should be for the shortest possible time. There should be an upper time limit of 28 days on all immigration detention.

Read a full copy of the report

Check out Women for Refugee Women’s website and follow them on Twitter @4refugeewomen