In the midst of a business park in Bedfordshire, you'll find Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Slotted in amongst the stocky offices of cement and the tall street lights that curve ominously towards the sky, you'd be forgiven for not noticing the 400 women that live between them; you weren't meant to.
Across Europe, our governments routinely detain asylum seekers with the hope of removing them back to their 'country of origin'. Out of all of these, Yarl's Wood, operated by Serco, is perhaps one of the most notorious. The women are not held for having committed any criminal offence, yet they are left to wait indefinitely for the outcome of their asylum cases. Despite allegations of sexual and verbal abuse by the guards, and being labelled 'a place of national concern', access remains rigid and almost impenetrable. When I went inside, I wasn't even allowed to bring a scrap of paper with me, and phones, or any video recording devices, are strictly prohibited.
Then, in the dead of night, people are deported. As one woman told me, "We are constantly living in a state of fear. There are so many planes, we never know if we will be forced to leave". Others have said how they have seen women taken half-naked, their heads covered by blankets and chained by several guards. The severity of the force used by the guards shouldn't be underestimated. Jimmy Mubenga, a man detained inside one of Britain's male detention centres, suffocated to death while G4S guards attempted to take him aboard one of these very same flights, using force that failed to comply with their training.