Northern Ireland concerns at immigration detention revelations - 2,000 NI detainees last year

Amnesty International has said that revelations about the treatment of immigration detainees in Yarl's Wood detention centre in England also raise questions about the holding of asylum seekers and others in Northern Ireland.

Filming undercover, Channel 4 News found staff at Yarl's Wood referring to the detention centre's inmates - mostly female asylum seekers - as 'animals' and 'b**ches'. 'Headbutt the b**ch', one guard says. 'I'd beat her up'. They also found numerous incidents of self-harm in the centre, raised concerns about the healthcare of detained pregnant women, and showed guards showing contempt for detainees. Two staff have now been suspended.

Responding to the revelations, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“The Channel 4 exposé of Yarl’s Wood is of concern in Northern Ireland as some of the asylum seekers and other immigrants who are initially detained here, find themselves sent to Yarl’s Wood for longer-term detention.

“For many asylum seekers and other immigration detainees in Northern Ireland, the journey to Yarl's Wood starts at the Home Office's Drumkeen House in Belfast or Larne House in Co Antrim, from which over 2,000 people were transported last year. 

“The shocking revelations from Yarl’s Wood give a grim glimpse of the treatment to which people locked up in detention are subjected. That guards were filmed referring to detainees as ‘animals’ is appalling, but sadly reflects a system which treats people like animals.

“Detention should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances, but it has become the norm. It should also only be used for the shortest possible time, but we know of people who have been locked up for years.

“The reform of this system is long overdue and that includes the Larne House temporary detention centre in Northern Ireland which has previously been criticised as having an 'oppressive' atmosphere.”

Larne House is run by contractor Tascor on behalf of the Home Office as a temporary holding centre for immigration detainees in Northern Ireland. The centre accommodates up to 19 detainees for up to a week. 2,035 detainees were moved through Larne House during the year to 31st January 2014. The figures, drawn from the Independent Monitoring Board for Short-term Holding Facilities annual report, show 2,035 "detainee movements" for Larne House during February 1 2013 - January 31 2014. 

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