**Update: following public outcry, the home office bowed to pressure and reported that six allegations of sexual abuse had been investigated. But it refused to reveal the outcome of those investigations or whether women had been deported following making an allegation of sexual assault. Openness and transparency is still badly needed in order to put women's safety ahead of corporate interests**
Our new Prime Minister -- Theresa May -- has officially taken office and everyone’s talking up her feminist credentials. But she’s helped to cover up one of the most shocking abuses of women of our time.
The hundreds of women detained at the privately run immigration detention centre Yarl’s Wood have come to the UK seeking refuge. Many of them have fled war in their own countries -- and 70% of them are rape survivors.
Now many of them report being raped and sexually abused by the very people who should be protecting them: the staff at Yarl’s Wood. But we don’t know how many. The Home Office, under Theresa May, refused to release the information -- saying it could “prejudice the commercial interests” of the private companies running Yarl’s Wood, like Serco.
In her bid to become our new PM, Theresa May said “big business needs to change” so the country “works for everyone -- not just the privileged few”. Let’s tell her to put her money where her mouth is. Let’s tell her to protect the women in her care rather than Serco’s profits by finally releasing the information about Yarl’s Wood she refused to release as Home Secretary.
Ask Theresa May to release the information about the scale of abuse at Yarl’s Wood.
Last year, a report found that more than half of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood feel unsafe. Allegations of rape, sexual abuse and intimidation at the centre are rife. And some of the alleged victims have been deported after speaking up -- before they could testify to police.
The Home Office is obliged by law to disclose information that’s in the public interest. Yet instead of opening Yarl’s Wood up to public scrutiny so it can stop the abuse, Theresa May’s former department seems to be complicit in allowing it to continue. Last year, it refused let the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women into Yarl’s Wood -- and now it’s refusing to release crucial information that could help to expose, and ultimately stop, sexual abuse at the centre.
SumOfUs was created to hold corporations to account -- not least, those corporations that are capturing our public services. Serco runs everything from detention centres to hospital services in the UK. It needs to be held to the highest possible standards of accountability -- but instead, the government is working to protect Serco’s corporate interests over the interests of every woman in Yarl’s Wood, and the wider public interest.
Let’s tell Theresa May to stop pandering to Serco’s commercial interests, and release the data about sexual violence at Yarl’s Wood.