Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West has hit out at the Home Office after it blocked her from visiting an immigration removal centre.

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling for the decision to be reversed, after the Labour MP’s request to visit Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire was turned down.

Foreign nationals are held at the centre, run by private firm Serco, before their deportation.

Catherine West said "I'm appalled that as a Member of Parliament I'm being denied the opportunity to visit Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre and it concerns me that the Home Office is so keen to avoid scrutiny.

“My diverse constituency is home to many people from all over the world and the conditions of vulnerable women being held in centres like Yarl's Wood is an important issue. I have written to Theresa May to urge her to step in and get this decision overturned.”

In a damning report published earlier this month, inspectors raised concerns about the length of time some women were held for at the centre, and the detention of vulnerable inmates.

Concerns were also raised about understaffing and healthcare services.

In a statement, campaign group Women for Refugee Women said "This shows a worrying lack of transparency about what is happening in Yarl’s Wood and suggests the Home Office feels there is something to hide."

An independent review of welfare in detention is currently being carried out by the former Prisons Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, which will conclude in the autumn.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Independent scrutiny is a vital part of ensuring that our removal centres are secure and humane.

“Immigration removal centres are regularly visited and inspected by organisations including Independent Monitoring Boards, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

“Requests by other people to visit immigration removal centres must be carefully considered and planned to preserve the privacy and dignity of the individuals detained.”

The spokesman added that the local constituency MP visited Yarl’s Wood on Tuesday, August 25.