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Yarl’s Wood update: Home Office accused of breaching handcuffing guidelines

Categories: Publications

deborasmallerWomen detained in Yarl’s Wood report skipping hospital appointments and healthcare check-ups in order to avoid the indignity and humiliation of being handcuffed during hospital visits.

The Home Office has been accused of breaching its own guidelines on handcuffing asylum seekers by Women for Refugee Women, expressing concern about the use of restraints on female detainees at Yarl’s Wood, and calling into question whether the requirements of necessity, reasonableness and proportionality are being adhered to before handcuffing detainees.

Some detained women believe that there has been a change in policy over the past two months, and have even reported being handcuffed during visits to hospital. One detainee who refused to attend a hospital appointment in restraints believes she is being targeted by security officers because she supported the ‘Shut Down Yarl’s Wood’ protests in the summer.

Women for Refugee Women has stressed the danger that unjustified handcuffing poses for the health of detainees missing important appointments. Expressing its disapproval of the reported change in handcuffing policy, the charity’s letter of complaint to the Home Office emphasised that the use of handcuffs across the board is not acceptable

The Home Office’s guidelines on the use of restraint were updated following the death of an elderly man with dementia, which occurred while he was shackled in a detention centre near Heathrow. The guidelines state that handcuffs should not be used unless a risk assessment shows restraints are warranted, and that the use of this during escorted visits must be considered only when it is ‘necessary, reasonable and proportionate’.

The Home Office has commissioned an independent review of the practice.

This article was originally published in Women’s Asylum News 133 December 2015/January 2016.

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