Home Office faces legal action over ‘immoral’ and ‘unlawful’ plans at Yarl’s Wood

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Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre

A Bedford resident is threatening the Home Office with legal action over its plan to house asylum seekers at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre near Thurleigh.

Rosie Newbigging is opposing the Home Office plans to house up to 200 asylum seekers in portakabin accommodation at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).

Read:Concerns raised over plans to house 200 asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood

She is crowdfunding for the legal challenge, describing the plans as, “an unlawful and immoral housing strategy” and says that she believes Yarl’s Wood is a stain on the humanity of our local community.

In the last 24 hours, Rosie has raised over £14,000 towards her £15,000 target to cover the legal action.

Letters Before Action have been sent to the Home Office and Bedford Borough Council, challenging the decision to develop and use Yarl’s Wood to accommodate asylum seekers.

“Development of the site is already underway, with the Home Office claiming that emergency provisions under town and country planning regulations, allow them to develop sites without planning permission or essential environmental or social risk assessments,” she said.

“This means that there has been no consultation, none of the usual scrutiny by responsible agencies, and in fact there has not even been publication of the plans in the public domain.”

Rosie is a Care4Calais volunteer and a member of Stand Up To Racism Bedford. She has seen first hand how people seeking asylum have been treated in France and says, “…the British government is also demonstrating a lack of humanity and kindness that I believe violates the law.

“I believe that people fleeing war, persecution, torture, human trafficking and abject poverty deserve to be treated with humanity and dignity – not housed in portakabins in a desolate remote part of Bedfordshire and with an Immigration Removal Centre next door.

“And I believe, and I am advised, that the law can help prevent this indignity.”

Commenting on the incredible response already to her crowdfunding appeal, Rosie said: “This is a demonstration of how appalled the good people are at the astonishing cruelty of the Home Office’s plans for Yarl’s Wood.”

Yarlswood IDC entrance
Credit: Oliver White / Yarlswood IDC

Quoted on the MSN website, Lottie Hume, the lawyer acting for Ms Newbigging, said the government’s decision to expand Yarl’s Wood was “not only immoral but unlawful”.

She said: “In pushing this development through at rapid pace, the Home Office has failed to carry out required social and environmental risk assessments, critical to protecting the wellbeing of individuals and the community.”

The Home Office is already under scrutiny regarding temporary accomodation for 400 asylum seekers at a former army barracks near Folkestone in Kent. It’s reported that hundreds of the men are on hunger strike over worsening conditions at the site.

“Asylum seekers deserve better,” said Rosie.

“Yarl’s Wood is not a suitable place for people who have fled countries where there is war and conflict, or who may be survivors of torture or trafficking.

“The emotional impact of using camp style accommodation, in a remote area, next to an immigration removal centre, with virtually no access to support in the community, is something we all need to oppose.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it would carefully consider any legal action or correspondence.

They said asylum seekers on the new site would be separate from the removal centre and would be free to come and go as they pleased and that the accommodation would be safe, habitable and fit for purpose.

Bedford and Kempston MP, Mohammad Yasin said that housing asylum seekers many miles from amenities was inappropriate and deliberately blurred the lines between asylum and detention.

“I’ve seen photographs of the site and it’s a hostile, bleak environment,” he told the Bedford Independent.

“I’m not surprised to learn that the men being kept in similarly inappropriate conditions on the site of a former army barracks in Kent are now on hunger strike because of the poor conditions there.

“It is totally wrong to treat human beings in this way and presents a significant public health risk to roll this out in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”

Rosie is now awaiting a response from the Home Office and Bedford Borough Council. If their response is unsatisfactory, her legal team will issue judicial review proceedings.

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