Anyone subject to UK immigration control can be detained.


While about half of those detained are seeking asylum, there are also people who have been in the UK for many years whose visas have expired, ex-offenders, and disputed age and identity cases. Young adults who arrive as unaccompanied minors, can also be deported once they turn 18.


Government guidelines say that certain people should only be detained under very exceptional circumstances. These categories include:

  • people with serious mental and physical health conditions

  • those who have been tortured.


We know that these people are often detained, nonetheless.

​If you or anyone you know is currently detained in Yarl's Wood IRC, please get in touch to find out how we can help.

If you have some time to spare and would like to help us, please click here to find out how.

Real-life stories

"I want to say how important it is to support women who are detained in Yarl’s Wood.  Befrienders were my motivation and support. I looked forward to each visit. During my one year’s detention it was Befrienders who kept me positive and helped me to get through. I do not have any friends or family in the UK so I found Yarl’s Wood Befrienders’ visits very important. I could not imagine what it would have been like without them. 

While I was in detention, Yarl's Wood Befrienders were the only outside group who organised a special Christmas event with lots of treats. The Women’s Institute came and gave us presents too. It was all down to the Befrienders. Every one of the women thought that they had had a proper Christmas and the mood lasted for a long time afterwards. We were still talking about it and saying how great it was, and how blessed we were to have Befrienders."


"I was really shocked when I arrived in Yarl’s Wood that there is somebody that sacrifices their own private time to coming here. I rarely have  any  family/friends  visit me. I met my Befriender, Joy, about a month and a half after I arrived. I have been detained for one year now.  

Without her visiting, I would not be able to carry on. It is a very difficult place, very dark, and people have a lot of problems and it can affect you as well. She breaks the tension; she cheers me up. She helps me think about the future. She has become a very close friend of mine. I was in prison before and the difference in detention is that you don’t know how long you will be detained, so it makes people very unsure. I have felt very depressed since I have been here. 

When I was isolated and afraid something was going to happen to me, she gave me a lot of power and strength to help me not feel depressed. All of what the Befrienders are doing – the Christmas party was so much fun for everybody, so much happiness. I felt like it was a normal Christmas party. We don’t have anything like that here. I go to the drop-in sessions because it’s nice just to enjoy some games and relax. We don’t have psychological talking, just have some fun, laughs, and forget about things. 

The influence of Befrienders is very strong here. It’s different when the Centre knows that somebody outside is checking up on them and will notice if something happens to us. It gives a lot of safety to us."

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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