14 years voluntary service at Bedfordshire immigration centre recognised
A member of the local and national bodies which oversee the conditions and treatment of people in immigration detention has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Jane Leech, who lives in Bedford, has been a member of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre near the town for 14 years.
“It’s a wonderful surprise and a huge honour to be awarded an MBE. I am passionate about the role and about the value of IMBs: in these uncertain times, when so many people are on the move across the globe, it’s never been more important to check that those who find themselves in immigration detention are treated justly and humanely.
“Many people may not be aware that every prison and immigration centre has an IMB team of dedicated volunteers who act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the public and provide independent scrutiny, so I am delighted that our vital and hugely rewarding work has been recognised in this way.”
Dame Anne Owers, IMB National Chair, paid tribute to Jane’s work, saying:
“I am delighted that Jane’s invaluable contribution to the IMBs, and to immigration detention in particular, has been recognised in this way. For 14 years, as a member and chair of the Board, Jane has played a crucial role in monitoring the conditions and treatment of women in detention at Yarl’s Wood.
“For the last five years, as part of the national governance structure, she has played a key role in developing and implementing policies to support all Boards and members. I, and all my IMB colleagues have benefited hugely from her advice and guidance and we wish her all the very best as she and her family celebrate this much-deserved honour.”
Jane, aged 56, lives with her husband in Bedford and has four daughters. She qualified as a solicitor in 1989 and practised for 10 years as a commercial litigation solicitor in the City of London. Since leaving legal practice in 1999, Jane has combined looking after her family with various volunteer roles, principally the IMB at Yarl’s Wood, which she joined in 2006. She was Chair of the Yarl’s Wood IMB from 2008 to 2012. In 2015 she was elected to represent IMBs working in immigration detention on the IMB National Council, a position she held until it was disbanded in 2018, and in November 2018 she was appointed to the national IMB Management Board. Outside of the IMB, Jane and her business partner have built a thriving local flower farm.