Women who have survived rape and sexual violence are still being sent to detention centres despite recent guidelines advising against it.

The charity Women for Refugee Women interviewed 26 women who had spent time in detention.

They found 22 were victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and all had been detained for at least a month.

Last year the Government introduced new guidance to cut the number of vulnerable people being sent to detention centres.

The ‘Adults at Risk’ policy states individuals at risk should not be detained, including those who have been “a victim of sexual or gender based violence, including female genital mutilation”.

Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre
Image:
Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre

One of the women in detention was Vivian, who escaped to the UK from West Africa, after her husband forced her into prostitution.

She believed a new life in Britain would be better, but instead spent six months this year in the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre, even though immigration officials agreed she was “at risk”.

She told Sky News her story:

I was homeless from the age of 10. I was driven out of my house because they said I was a witch.

Then I met a guy and I told him everything, that I didn’t have any family – I trusted him and married him.

It turned out to be my worst dream. He started abusing me and using me for prostitution.

I’d just go to work and come back and he would lock me in a room and then he would force men to have sex with me.

And it was like that until I met somebody that encouraged me to go to the police.

I didn’t want to go because I know the police are corrupt.

And when I came back that was just the beginning of another trend of torture.

They beat me so much that they thought I had died or was about to die.

Later, a customer saw me and noticed that I was depressed. She encouraged me to relocate to another country and I came to the UK.

But when I was in Yarl’s Wood detention centre, it was just like I was in that room where men came in and forced me to have sex.

It’s a confined space and I was afraid of being in a confined space.

I was suicidal, I was depressed and it was very traumatic.

I wasn’t sleeping – I was having flashbacks because of the memories that happened to me in that room.

I felt like I was caged in again.

I only went to the room when I knew it was absolutely necessary because it reminded me of what happened to me back home.

My roommate was always screaming at night as it was bringing her back to what happened to her in her country.

They placed me on a watchlist and came to see me every 24 hours because the lady knew that I was suicidal after what happened to me.

Still, they said that they would not release me.

It was a very bad experience, very traumatic and very depressing.