The Scar Test Spotlight: The Befrienders

The Scar Test features three characters that are part of a charity called the Yarl’s Wood Befrienders. Playwright Hannah Khalil worked with the Befrienders to gather information for her play. She talked to detainees as well as other volunteers as she crafted her rich and accurate representation of life inside the center.

In 2001, the Befrienders began their mission to support the people detained in Yarl’s Wood. They aim to increase a detainee’s connection with the outside world, to reduce feelings of isolation, and to support their emotional well-being. The Befrienders connect detainees with a volunteers from the local community. A detainee will be paired up with a Befriender who visits every week to chat. Currently, around 60 volunteers work with the Befrienders. Volunteers speak different languages and practice different religions. Many provide detainees with basic necessities like clothes, underwear, footwear, and phone credits. Volunteers also organize social events for detainees to break up the monotony inside the facility. 

All of the volunteers are dedicated to supporting and comforting the people inside Yarl’s Wood. A detainee named Leyla said that “the influence of Befrienders is very strong here. It’s different when the Centre knows that somebody outside is checking up on them and will notice if something happens to us. It gives a lot of safety to us.” The Befrienders do the work the rest of the UK refuses to confront. Instead of treating immigrants like statistics, the Befrienders are actively working toward a better immigration system that respects the humanity of all immigrants.

For more information about the Befrienders, check out their Facebook page here.

To read more about the Befrienders and hear from people detained at Yarl’s Wood, Production Dramaturg Kate Fisher has put together a page here.