LONDON May 18 Britain's opposition Labour Party
has urged the government to investigate the way outsourcing
company Serco runs an immigration detention centre after
an allegation of sexual assaults there.
The call follows a report in the Observer newspaper that
Serco failed to properly investigate an allegation that one of
its staff repeatedly assaulted a female resident at the Yarl's
Wood centre in central England.
In a statement, Serco said the sexual assault accusation had
been investigated and that there was no case to answer.
Serco is trying to restore its reputation after a series of
scandals over contracts including one when it was found to have
overcharged the British government on a deal to monitor
criminals with tags.
The Observer based its report on an internal Serco document,
which it said was made public last week after a four-month legal
battle with the company.
"These are shocking allegations of a despicable nature,"
said Yvette Cooper, Labour spokeswoman on home affairs.
"We asked the government to instigate a joint inquiry of
Serco operations by the prisons and borders inspectors over two
months ago. That action is now unavoidable and the government
must accept our case and hold that inquiry," the MP added.
Keith Vaz, chairman of parliament's home affairs select
committee, planned to summon senior Serco figures to parliament
next month to discuss the issue, the Observer reported.
Yarl's Wood is a holding centre used mainly to house women
who are facing deportation. Cooper had previously called for an
inquiry after the death of a 40-year-old woman there in March.
"When a complaint of sexually inappropriate behaviour
between a member of staff and a resident was brought to our
attention in January 2011, the matter was investigated by our
own team as well as by the Home Office Professional Standards
Unit and Bedfordshire Police," said Norman Abusin, Serco's
director at the Yarl's Wood centre.
"All parties concluded that the allegations made against our
employee were false and no criminal charges were brought."
(Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Alison Williams)