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18 May 2014

William McLennan

UK: Outsourcing giant Serco faces sexual assault inquiry following allegations of abuse at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre

“Serco facing inquiry over claims of sexual assaults at Yarl’s Wood detention centre”, 18 May 2014

Outsourcing giant Serco is to be investigated by MPs after it was forced to publish an internal report into claims of repeated sexual assaults at one of its immigration detention centres.

The confidential document revealed the company’s investigations into claims made by a female resident of Yarl’s Wood against a male employee and was only released last week after a four-month legal battle between Serco and The Guardian.

The claims made by a 29-year-old woman from Pakistan remain unproven following investigations by police and the Home Office, but Serco’s handling of the case has been called “inadequate” by lawyers and has led to calls for an external review.

Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would be calling senior Serco figures to parliament next month to explain their actions.

Norman Abusin, Serco's director at Yarl's Wood, said: “Sexual contact between residents and staff is always completely unacceptable. We view any complaint of this type of behaviour extremely seriously and have strict procedures for dealing with any such complaints: they are always investigated and the necessary disciplinary action is always taken, including informing the relevant authorities.

“Our managers and staff work hard to establish and maintain good relationships with the residents. The most recent HM Chief Inspector of Prisons inspection report, issued in October 2013, considered it to be an establishment where residents feel safe and there is little violence.

“However, we are not complacent and make continuous improvements to the services we provide.”