Two weeks ago the House of Lords voted to ban the detention of pregnant women. On Monday the amendments will be considered by the House of Commons.
The Royal College of Midwives and Medical Justice have issued a joint statement calling for an absolute ban on detaining pregnant women.
Please write to your MP and ask them to support the Lords’ amendment.
Now is the Time to End the Detention of Pregnant Women!
The House of Lords voted on 12 April in favour of implementing an absolute ban on detaining pregnant women. This followed calls for an end to the detention of pregnant women from NGOs including Medical Justice and professional organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, parliamentarians and most recently Stephen Shaw in his Review of the Detention of Vulnerable Persons.
In response, the Home Secretary has proposed a limit of 72 hours on detaining pregnant women, extendible to up to 7 days with ministerial approval.
We are disappointed that the Secretary of State has stopped short of introducing an absolute ban:
Even short-term detention is distressing and can be harmful to pregnant women. The no-notice nature of detention disrupts maternity care. Often women are transported by van for many hours to the detention centre, toilet stops can be difficult to arrange and some women are sick during the journey. In many cases detainees miss necessary medication because it takes several days to arrange.
A time limit does not prevent repeat detentions which cause further disruptions to care, distress and uncertainty.
A time limit does not make detention effective or necessary. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found that 90% of pregnant women detained at Yarl’s Wood in 2014 were not removed but later released. A study by Medical Justice (Expecting Change, 2013) found that 95% of pregnant women known to Medical Justice were not removed. Setting a time limit will not prevent women who cannot be removed from the UK from being detained pointlessly and therefore suffering harm unnecessarily.
The House of Commons will consider the House of Lords’ amendment on 25th April. We call on Members of Parliament to vote in favour of the amendment and to end the detention of pregnant women.
The Royal College of Midwives
Last week the Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement suggesting that in addition to a time limit there would be additional safeguards for pregnant women akin to the safeguards for families with children. However, these safeguards are missing from amendment proposed by the government which was published today. Repeat detention is expressly allowed. This is of great concern.
For more information on why pregnant women should not be detained: ‘Expecting Change: The case for ending the detention of pregnant women‘ on the Medical Justice website.
Read the account of one woman who was detained when she was pregnant here.
Watch Mumsnet’s film here.
Others supporting an end to the detention of pregnant women: The All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration; the Royal College of Midwives; the Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on the Mental Health of Asylum Seekers; Sir Stephen Shaw in his recent advice to the Home Office on the detention of the vulnerable; and over 300 NGOs and community groups. Even the Prime Minister recently recommended alternatives to prison for pregnant women who were convicted of criminal offences should be found, if this is true for those serving a criminal sentence the same must apply to immigration detainees who have been convicted of no crime.