Failures in safeguarding for the most vulnerable people in immigration detention
The Medical Justice “Harmed Not Heard” report evidences that the Home Office process to identify and release highly vulnerable people in immigration detention is totally and utterly flawed.
The report analyses Medical Justice clinical assessments carried out between July and December 2021 for 45 clients detained in various immigration removal centres (IRCs) across the UK. These clients’ histories included severe trauma, significant mental health issues, and being at risk of suicide. Our findings include:
- 100% of these clients were assessed as at clinical risk of harm caused by detention and 82% had already experienced deterioration in their mental state by the time they were seen by a Medical Justice clinician. Not a single one of them had a safeguarding report, as they should have done, from the IRC healthcare department to identify them to the Home Office as at risk of harm under a process known as Rule 35(1)
- 67% had no communication of any type by the IRC healthcare department to the Home Office explicitly addressing the risk to their health from detention, prior to their assessment by a Medical Justice clinician
- 87% had suicidal and/or self-harm thoughts recorded by a Medical Justice clinician at their assessment – all were deprived of a safeguarding report identifying their risk of suicide (Rule 35(2))
- 76% were assessed by our clinicians as having symptoms or a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Only 51% saw a GP within the required 24 hours of admission to the IRC. Where identified as needing a Rule 35 safeguarding report, the average wait for an appointment was 29 days – one person’s appointment took 119 days
- Home Office case-workers only released 1 of our 45 vulnerable clients when given information about their vulnerability under safeguarding processes, many of whom included torture survivors
“My health was getting worse in detention. I felt like I couldn’t live anymore, I didn’t know what to do, it was really really terrible … they knew what was happening to me, that I needed help…. There is no help. Ask healthcare, they blame it on the Home Office, and the Home Office will in turn blame healthcare. It feels like you are buried alive.”
Dr D, torture survivor, detained for 4 months despite deterioration in mental health
“Our medical evidence is that extensive Home Office failures mean its safeguarding processes are so ineffective they are basically fictional. Medical Justice fears torture survivors and people who are mentally ill and suicidal could be sent to Rwanda, given the ongoing gross Home Office systemic failures in safeguards for detained people. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Rwanda indicates that slavery and human trafficking survivors will be sent to Rwanda by the UK.
The impact on vulnerable asylum seekers could be devastating. Medical evidence of the harm inflicted would be beyond our reach so we would not be able to collate it in reports like “Harmed Not Heard” which are used to hold the government to account. These vulnerable asylum seekers could be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in Rwanda with little chance of being heard.”
Medical Justice spokesperson
Evidence heard at public inquiry demonstrates extent of the Home Office’s safeguarding failures
The clinical expert appointed by the Brook House IRC Public Inquiry into mistreatment of detained people, Dr Jake Hard, concluded in March 2022 that there was “a complete systems failure” of safeguards to identify and release vulnerable people in detention. The Head of Healthcare, and the lead GP (still both working at Brook House IRC) gave evidence of systemic deficiencies and that they are continuing. Our report shows these deficiencies are not confined to Brook House and apply across the detention estate.
Victims of slavery and human trafficking, and possibly other vulnerable people, set to be sent to Rwanda
On 14th April 2022 the Home Office announced its MoU outlining how asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda. It commits to undertaking an “initial screening” of asylum seekers before sending them. The evidence from ‘Harmed Not Heard’, and from all our work since Medical Justice was founded in 2005, demonstrates that the Home Office is incapable of effective screening for vulnerabilities. This seems to be anticipated in the MoU which states the UK will take back and “resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees” in the UK. The MoU indicates that victims of modern slavery and human trafficking will be sent to Rwanda.
Vulnerable asylum seekers set to be held in quasi-detention in a tiny Yorkshire hamlet within weeks
Also announced on 14th April is an ‘Accommodation Centre’ at RAF Linton-on-Ouse which the Home Office plans to open in a matter of weeks, where it will place 1,500 asylum seeking men. Linton-on-Ouse is village, with 500 residents, according to one of them.
The Home Office has said that Napier Barracks, where a few hundred asylum seeking men are placed, is the ‘pilot’ for ‘Accommodation Centres’. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Immigration Detention considers Napier Barracks to be ‘quasi-detention’ and that asylum seekers placed there “have been subjected to appalling treatment and conditions”.
The APPG found that the Home Office had failed to apply it’s own “suitability criteria” which is meant to screen out highly vulnerable asylum seekers. The “suitability criteria” that the Home Office refers to for Linton-on-Ouse may be the same as at Napier, and as dysfunctional. The Home Office Factsheet for Linton-on-Ouse says “There will be robust processes in place to assess and manage vulnerabilities”, so it’s not clear to what extent, if at all, vulnerable asylum seekers are screened out.
Contact : Emma Ginn on 07786 517379 / email@example.com