A worker at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre has been suspended after a guard was secretly filmed calling inmates “caged animals”.
The investigation into the centre in Bedfordshire, which is run by private firm Serco, also raised concerns about self-harm by inmates.
The footage was filmed by an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News.
Serco said it had appointed former barrister Kate Lampard to carry out an independent review of its work.
Yarl’s Wood detention centre Yarl’s Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families facing deportation
The footage showed staff at Yarl’s Wood referring to inmates as “animals” and “beasties”.
One guard said: “They’re animals. They’re beasties. They’re all animals. Caged animals. Take a stick with you and beat them up. Right?”
A Freedom of Information Act request by Channel 4 News revealed there were 74 separate incidents of self-harm needing medical treatment at the centre in 2013.
One staff member is recorded saying: “They are all slashing their wrists apparently. Let them slash their wrists.” Another adds: “It’s attention seeking.”
James Thorburn, managing director of Serco’s Home Affairs business – which manages Yarl’s Wood – said: “We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate.
“We work hard to ensure that the highest standards of conduct are maintained at Yarl’s Wood and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons has found the Centre to be a safe and respectful place.”
Gates at Yarl’s Wood Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff
He said the independent review was needed because the “public will want to be confident that Yarl’s Wood is doing its difficult task with professionalism, care and humanity”.
Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance – we will accept nothing but the highest standards from companies employed to manage the detention estate.
“Last month, the Home Secretary commissioned an independent review of detainees’ welfare to be conducted by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, but these are clearly very serious and disturbing allegations which merit immediate scrutiny.
“All of our detention centres are part of a regular and rigorous inspection regime operated by independent monitoring boards and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons.
“Lapses in standards, when they are identified, are dealt with swiftly and effectively.”