Immigration centre ‘failed to properly investigate sex assault claims by resident’

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A privately-run immigration removal centre for women failed to properly investigate allegations of sexual assault against a female resident by one of its members of staff, it has been claimed.

An investigation was carried out at Serco-operated Yarl’s Wood, in Bedfordshire, after the claims relating to a 29-year-old woman from Pakistan came to light, but now the outsourcing company has been forced to
disclose an internal report
which reveals evidence that it failed to properly investigate the claims.

The document, which was made public following a legal battle between Serco and Guardian News & Media, said another employee, who appeared to believe the claims made by the alleged victim, should be given “guidance” to assist her “objectivity” in future, and that Serco believed the alleged victim lacked credibility because her allegations were too consistent and detailed.

The claims by the woman that she was sexually assaulted three times by a Serco health worker between November 2010 and January 2011 were investigated by police and the Home Office, but not taken any further.

Serco’s report also suggested it was possible that the woman was being advised by her solicitor of “actions to take in order to thwart her removal directions”, while it was claimed that her alleged attacker was a family man with strong religious views and would therefore have much to lose.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called for an external investigation into the “shocking revelations” and said the company should appear before the committee.

He told the Observer: “It’s clearly the tip of the iceberg as far as these allegations are concerned and the way Serco has dealt with them. There needs to be an external examination following these revelations, which will look at the entire history of the allegations.”