Activists have called for the immediate release of a transgender woman being held in an immigrant detention centre, following reports that she had been raped by her cellmate.

The 23-year-old woman, known as Marichuy, has been held for over a year at the Eloy Detention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The centre has reportedly not acknowledged her gender identity, and has placed her with male inmates.

Marichuy has claimed that her cellmate raped her, in an incident on 20 July, and activists have responded by saying that the centre has shown it cannot protect her and so must release her immediately.

Raul Alcaraz Ochoa, a local immigration activist, said: “Being in detention she is automatically subject to discrimination based on her gender identity, and being transgendered she is subject to mistreatment, a lack of mental health services, and subjected to potential rape and sexual assault.”

Francisco Luna, speaking for Arcoiris Liberation Team, added: “We see no other solution than for ICE to immediately release her, where her community can take measures to… help her heal.”

The centre is run by Corrections Corporation of America, under a contract from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It said in a statement: “ICE has a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behaviour in its facilities and takes any allegations of such mistreatment very seriously.”

Corrections Corporation would not comment on the specific case, but added: “Any allegation of this nature is also reported to outside law enforcement so that an independent investigation can be conducted.”

ICE confirmed that the allegations of rape had been passed on to the “appropriate authorities”. Eloy police have said they are investigating the case.