About YWB

Yarl’s Wood Befrienders 

We aim to affirm human dignity and restore self-esteem by listening and offering befriending support.

What Yarl’s Wood is

Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre has the capacity to hold around 400 detainees. It has two units for women, an admission unit and a smaller unit for couples and families with adult dependents. It is the main facility for the detention of women in the UK. In December 2010, it was finally decided that there would be no more children held at Yarl’s Wood. From February 2012 it will also incorporate a short-term holding centre for males who have been detained upon arrival in the country, whilst they undergo an initial screening process.

Yarl's Wood IRC

Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre


 What we do

Detainees can be vulnerable, isolated and frightened. Many are young, speak no English, and may not know anyone in this country. Whether a detainee has recently arrived in the UK or has been here for many years, the experience of detention can be traumatic. They are held for indefinite periods of time, and do not always understand the system that will decide their future.

Our volunteers undertake to visit a detainee regularly, listening and caring about what happens to them. In this way, although we cannot affect the outcome of their case, we can help to reduce their isolation, acting as a contact with the outside world. The visitor notices when anxiety and depression, or other medical problems, are becoming serious.

We put great emphasis on training and supporting our volunteers, who meet regularly for mutual support. The organisation is run by a Management Committee. The group is linked to organisations which visit other detention centres through AVID (the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees).

We can assist with small practical needs, such as toiletries, second-hand clothing, international phone cards, and small amounts of money to destitute people being deported.

We are non-party-political and are funded entirely by non-governmental grants and personal donations, enabling us to remain completely independent. Although we do not campaign, we use our insight into the experiences of detainees to inform policy, work towards the improved treatment of detainees and to challenge negative attitudes towards immigrants, particularly asylum seekers.

If you would like to become involved in our organisation, or contact us for any other reason, please follow this link


We are very grateful to all our funders and donors, who make the continuing work of Yarl’s Wood Befrienders possible. The following organisations have supported us in 20014/15:

  • The Eranda Foundation
  • The Harpur Trust
  • The Leigh Trust
  • Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban
  • The Bromley Trust
  • Steel Charitable Trust
  • St Andrew’s Church Bedford
  • Wixamtree Trust
  • House of Industry
  • Noel Buxton Trust
  • Swan Mountain Trust
  • St Peter de Merton Church, Bedford
  • St Cuthbert’s Church, Bedford

We have also been greatly assisted by support and advice from
AVID – Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees