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New high level report calls for detention reform

26 Jan 2016

A report commissioned by the Home Office into the detention of vulnerable people has been published. Stephen Shaw's review supports many of the findings and recommendations of the Set Her Free campaign.

This review was commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May after the campaign's two reports, Detained and I Am Human, showed that the majority of women who have sought asylum and are detained in Yarl's Wood are survivors of rape or torture in their home countries and that detention is very distressing for them. The Women for Refugee Women reports also showed that women's privacy and dignity are often compromised in detention and that healthcare is inadequate for the needs of the women detained.

Women for Refugee Women recommended in their reports that victims of rape, sexual violence and other torture should not be detained, that pregnant women should not be detained, and that there should be a time limit on detention. The Set Her Free campaign argues that these are necessary first steps, and the end point should be an end to detention for women who seek asylum.

These reports sparked public interest and support; there are more than 100,000 signatures on the Set Her Free online petition, the campaign has seen widespread media coverage, events and demonstrations, and it has been mentioned numerous times in Parliamentary debates.

Women for Refugee Women brought written evidence to Stephen Shaw for his review, and also brought five ex-detainees to meet with him who spoke openly to him about their experiences of Yarl's Wood.

Rape Crisis supports the Set Her Free campaign and is glad to see support for its findings and recommendations in Shaw's review. Shaw recommends: ‘there should be a presumption against detention for victims of rape and other sexual and gender based violence,’ and that ‘the Home Office amend its guidance so that the presumptive exclusion from detention for pregnant women is replaced with an absolute exclusion.’

He also recommends: ‘that the Home Office give further consideration to ways of strengthening the legal safeguards against excessive length of detention… and that the Home Office investigates the development of alternatives to detention.'

What now?

Now that there has been such clear reinforcement of the need for change, it's time to show again the public support for reform.

Please join Women for Refugee Women on Tuesday 8th March 2016, International Women's Day, at 1pm outside the Home Office in Marsham Street, London SW1. There will be music and poetry to entertain you as the demonstration delivers postcards with messages of welcome for refugee women to Theresa May.

At a time when international crises are causing more people than ever to cross borders, it is time to deliver a strong message of Refugees Welcome and Set Her Free to the Home Office.