Our volunteers are the backbone of our entire organisation and, without them, we would never be able to achieve what we do.  

Become a Befriender

Why become a Befriender?

People in indefinite detention in the UK face many challenges.

Imagine being locked up in a strange place… without family and friends; perhaps separated from your children; with no understanding of the system; detained with only the clothes you stand up in. You may be young, speak no English, and know no-one in this country.

Our volunteer visitors are often the only faces not connected to the Immigration Service that people see on a regular basis. This means we are a vital source of reassurance, comfort and help.

Our purpose is simple – to be a bridge between the local community and the people detained indefinitely in Yarl’s Wood IRC, reassuring them that they are not alone and that there are people nearby who care about them.

Languages we need most

People in detention who are not able to communicate in English are particularly isolated, so we are really keen to hear from people who speak…

  • Albanian
  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • French
  • Hindi
  • Mandarin
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese.

Skills you should have

Being a Befriender is both challenging and rewarding, and requires some particular skills…

  • Are you a good listener?
  • Can you listen with empathy without taking on board someone else’s suffering?
  • Are you able to remain non-judgemental?
  • Can you commit to a regular one-hour weekly visit (plus travel time)?
  • Can you give us at least six months of volunteering?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to these five questions, then being a volunteer Befriender could be for you.

Information sessions

The first step to becoming a Befriender is to attend one of our informal Information Sessions. These last about an hour and a half and aim to provide you with an honest picture of befriending, so you can make an informed choice about attending a training day. You are also more than welcome to attend – with no obligation – if you just want to know more about Yarl’s Wood IRC or Yarl’s Wood Befrienders. These informal, friendly sessions take place, both during the daytime and in the evenings, at our office at: 43 Bromham Road, Bedford, MK40 2AA. You will need to book a place by clicking the link on the page below.

Befriender training and selection process

Once you've attended an Information session, Befriender training involves five stages:

  1. attend one of our training days, which take place two or three times a year on a Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
  2. complete the application form and provide two referees
  3. make a visit to Yarl's Wood with an experienced Befriender to meet two people we already befriend.
  4. complete a standard online DBS check.
  5. attend a follow-up session which includes an interview, a review and signing of all relevant policies, plus a check of your ID for the DBS check.
​As you can imagine, this process can take several weeks to complete.


While we understand that our volunteers are happy to give their time and skills, we would never want you to be out of pocket, financially. We strongly encourage our volunteers to claim any expenses they incur in the course of befriending, especially for their travel to and from Yarl's Wood. We do, after all, receive funding for this purpose. View our Expenses policy, and download an Expenses Claim form, either in Excel format, or as a PDF.

Provide office support 

As with any other charity, we have limited resources and rely on the support of volunteers to provide their skills and their time. We have a spare desk in our office and welcome volunteers to work regularly alongside our staff.


To let us know how you can help, please get in touch.

Information sessions

Would you like to know more about us and Yarl's Wood IRC before you volunteer to help our vulnerable and lonely detainees? If so, we would love you to join us at one of our information session. 

These friendly and commitment-free sessions, held both during the day and in the evening, last about an hour and a half, and introduce you to befriending and the huge value it provides to the people we visit.


Join us at 43 Bromham Road, Bedford, MK40 2AA for our next information session.

If you live further away but are keen to visit people in detention, you might like to refer to the AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees) website to see if there is an Immigration Removal Centre nearer to you.

We offer befriending support to people held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, aiming to reduce their isolation, reinforce their self-esteem and affirm their human dignity.

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Yarl's Wood Befrienders is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. Charity Number: 1143160

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