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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 09:59 GMT
State of the art centre
Yarl's Wood Centre
Yarl's Wood is thought to have cost 100m
The Yarl's Wood detention centre became operational in November last year but was only officially opened last month.

It is capable of housing 900 detainees and includes healthcare, recreational and religious facilities.

The centre, in Clapham, Bedfordshire, is split into two main buildings - one is a male centre, the other mixed.

It offers a sports hall, a prayer room for all faiths, a library and a reading room.

Games room at the centre
The showpiece centre has already attracted protests

Lord Rooker, Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, said at the time of the centre's opening: "Yarl's Wood offers decent facilities in a pleasant environment for people that it is necessary to detain."

The total capital cost for the building of detention centres at Yarl's Wood, Harmondsworth and Dungavel was 140m.

Each of the buildings in Yarl's Wood has eight prayer rooms, 10 classrooms, association rooms and shops selling a variety of goods.

The bedrooms resemble student halls or youth hostels - two beds and a bathroom and shower per room.

Centre protests

Family units are made up of two bedrooms.

The doors are not locked and people could move around freely - although in the mixed block the men cannot go into the female or family areas.

People can go out into the courtyards and they do have access to legal help and they can receive visitors.

The centre has already been affected by controversy with civil liberties protests at its opening.

There have also been candlelit vigils for ethnic Albanian hunger striker Gjevat Cerkini.

The BBC's Sue Haley
"It's not known if anyone is trapped in the centre"
The BBC's Sally Chidzoy
"Flames have taken hold of a second wing"
Eyewitness Emma Ginn
"We're very concerned for the welfare of the detainees"
Jacqui Manners, Bedfordshire Fire Service
"The fire is contained in the same block"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | England
Fire after riot at asylum centre
17 Feb 02 | England
Protest at detention centre
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