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What Music in Detention does at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

What Music in Detention does at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

11th June 2015

Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is the main centre in the UK for the detention of women and adult families. It has been the subject of intense scrutiny and various campaigns.  Music In Detention, an independent charity, has been providing music workshops for detainees at Yarl’s Wood since 2008.

Yarl’s Wood’s Independent Monitoring Board (a non-partisan body whose members are appointed by the Home Office) has recently published its annual report, on how far the centre “has met the standards and requirements placed on it”.  The report expresses concerns about healthcare provision, the length of detention, the detention of vulnerable women and the separation of mothers from their children.  It also mentions a range of activities organised for detainees, including “the resumption of the Yarl’s Wood choir under the auspices of Music in Detention”.  The IMB report has been the subject of several national news stories, some of them referring to these activities in such terms as “life of luxury” and “keep[ing] detainees entertained”.

John Speyer, Director of Music in Detention, said:

“Immigration detention is an ordeal.  It takes people who have already been through difficult, often traumatic, experiences and puts them in a state of insecurity that is very difficult to endure, especially since they don’t know how long their detention will last.  Music In Detention uses the power of music to help develop inner strength and courage in the face of an unknown future.  This is neither entertainment nor luxury, it’s much needed psychological support to people in extreme difficulty.  We provide a skilled professional service in complex and challenging settings.”

A recent Oxford University study (“Quality of Life in Detention”) found that 83% of detainees suffered depression and 22% had considered suicide.  Independent evaluations of MID’s work have shown a range of benefits including detainees’ wellbeing, their relationships with staff and the atmosphere in the centres.  Since 2008, 4000 detainees at Yarl’s Wood have benefited from MID’s work.