Interview: Yarl’s Wood whistleblower speaks out against ‘prison-like’ conditions

‘If I’m feeling like this, I know it’s wrong’



Prison-like conditions and ‘predatory’ behaviour

In 2014, Noel Finn made headlines as the first member of staff in a UK immigration detention centre to blow the whistle to the press on poor conditions.

From 2012-2013, Mr. Finn was a mental health nurse in Yarl’s Wood, the UK’s only women-only immigration detention centre. The centre was the subject of a damning exposé by Channel 4 in 2015.

In the first of a two-part video interview with Prison Watch UK, Mr. Finn recalls feeling increasingly concerned about the prison-like environment, inappropriate staff behaviour, workforce shortages, and staff indifference towards sick or injured patients, until he felt he had to speak out.


Force-feeding and staff shortages

Among his strongest memories are those of staff force-feeding hunger-striking residents. In particular, Mr. Finn remembers the force-feeding of glucose to a woman refusing nourishment, on the 28th day of her hunger strike:

“I realised then how significant that was, how significant Yarl’s Wood was, that someone would go to that point of starving themselves to be released.”

Mr. Finn believes that a lack of dedicated mental health staff while he was working in Yarl’s Wood meant that people with legitimate asylum claims may have slipped through the net and been deported without having their case properly assessed. He recalls that during his own medical sessions with vulnerable residents:

“I used to get nurses and officers knocking on the door, telling me to hurry up, in the middle of the assessments […] I used to think, you wouldn’t do that in a GP practice… why would you do that here?”

After he tried to raise concerns internally, Mr. Finn says the management at Yarl’s Wood became increasingly hostile towards him, until he felt he had no choice but to resign.

Since he left Yarl’s Wood, Mr. Finn has been campaigning for the closure of immigration detention centres in the UK. He tweets @Nolliag66.

We will release Part 2 of the interview in the coming days.

What do you think of the interview? Have you had an experience  in a detention centre? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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