118 Pakistani women in UK detention centres waiting for release

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LONDON: The Home Office is “refusing to protect” victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, a report has said. A charity found some women were held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire for months despite a policy to protect trafficking victims.

According to figures released by BBC, 118 women belong to Pakistan. Women for Women Refugees said one woman was released to a place where she was previously “forced into prostitution”. A spokesperson for the Home Office said it had made “significant improvements” to detention in recent years.

For its report, Women for Women Refugees looked at the cases of 14 women from China who were all detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. The charity said in most of the cases the women had been brought to the UK and forced into sexual exploitation or forced labour to pay off a debt owed by themselves or family members.

Women for Women Refugees said the Home Office’s “commitment to safeguard and protect vulnerable people is not being implemented”.

In 2016 the Home Office introduced an Adults at Risk policy that aimed to reduce the number of vulnerable people in detention. The policy stated vulnerable people, including survivors of trafficking, should not normally be detained and a “detention gatekeeper” should “challenge decisions” about who entered immigration detention.

‘One hell to another’

Women for Women Refugees said this policy was not being adhered to as some detained women had been “encountered by policy during raids on brothels or massage parlours”. According to Home Office figures, women from China made up the largest group of female adults in immigration detention in the UK. During 2018, 420 women from China were detained out of a total of 3,641.