LONDON, May 18 (Reuters) - 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)