Campaign against Accommodation Centres

The government has opened a tender process for companies to bid for contracts to build 9 Accommodation Centres to hold 8,000 asylum seekers.  The “pilot” for the Accommodation Centres is Napier Barracks.  The impact assessment for Napier barracks states that “destitute asylum seekers not analogous to British Citizens” and that “Basic” provision therefore “justified”.  An inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention found that Napier barracks is quasi-detention.  Medical Justice clinicians have assessed asylum seekers who have been held at Napier barracks and found that deterioration in their health was similar to that found by those held at immigration removal centres.  One torture victim said that he felt suicidal for the first time when at Napier barracks.

Medical Justice, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Asylum Matters and others are forming a campaign against Accommodation Centres.

Campaign against the detention of pregnant women

2013 research report – Medical Justice sent a volunteer midwife to visit most of its pregnant clients held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) and documented the inadequate healthcare they received. Based on evidence from our casework with these pregnant women, Medical Justice published “Expecting Change: The case for ending the detention of pregnant women” in 2013.

The report documented evidence that pregnant women had suffered harm and serious shortcomings in antenatal care and in healthcare for detained pregnant women. They were detained even where there was evidence of torture, trafficking or other trauma, and mental illness. There was also evidence of force being used to effect the removal of pregnant women.

The report’s conclusion was that the Home Office’s policy of detaining pregnant women was “ineffective, unworkable and damaging”.

Contributors to the report included the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Medical Justice, RCOG, RCM, the Royal College of Psychiatrists working group on the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees and 337 organisations that are signatories of the Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum called for an end of detention of pregnant women.

2013 Adjournment debate – Medical Justice briefed Richard Fuller MP for the Adjournment debate he tabled on 5th September 2013 which raised concerns about the detention of pregnant women.

2013 / 14 : litigation – Legal challenges were also brought in 2013 against the unlawful use of force on pregnant women[1] and the systemic failure in policy on detaining pregnant women[2]. Both cases were conceded by the Home Office after permission was granted ;

In 2013 Medical Justice provided evidence in the successful case of Yiyu Chen in 2013 against the unlawful use of force on pregnant women. This resulted in banning the use of force against pregnant women and children for the purposes of removal. This had a bearing on the detention of pregnant women for removal.

In 2014, alongside the Royal College of Midwives, Medical Justice gave evidence in the case of PA regarding systemic failure in policy on detaining pregnant women. The Home Office settled this case and apologised to PA. As part of the agreed terms, the Home Secretary committed to consult and review the policy of the detention of pregnant women.

2014-16 : Systemic failures in care for pregnant women in detention continued. In 2014, 99 pregnant women were held at Yarl’s Wood yet just 9 of these women were removed from the UK. The remaining 90% were released back into the community, their detention was unnecessary, and very traumatic for the women concerned.

In 2014, Medical Justice together with Richard Fuller MP, met with the then Immigration Minister who responded by justifying the policy of detaining pregnant women.

In 2015 Medical Justice made submissions to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration & the APPG on Refugees Inquiry into Immigration Detention and in 2016 to Stephen Shaw in his Review of the Detention of Vulnerable Persons – both inquiries made strong recommendations on the detention of pregnant women.

In 2016 Medical Justice provided a written response to the Home Office’s Consultation on the Detention Service Order on the Care and Management of Pregnant Women in Detention in 2016.

Despite this body of evidence submitted and the successful litigation, the Home Office was belligerent in maintaining its policy of detaining pregnant women. No remedial action was taken to address the systemic failures in policy and safeguards and to prevent recurring harm to pregnant women.

2016 : amendment to the 2016 Immigration Bill – Caroline Spelman MP (Conservative) hosted a meeting the House of Commons organised by Medical Justice, Women for Refugee Women and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. Contributors included a woman who had been held at Yarl’s Wood while pregnant, the Royal College of Midwives, Stephanie Harrison QC, and Stephen Shaw. Caroline Spelman described the practice of detaining pregnant women as ‘obsolete’ and urged the Government to ‘do all it can to stop holding pregnant women in detention centres once and for all’. Baroness Lister, who had been briefed at the meeting, subsequently introduced an amendment to the 2016 Immigration Bill. The House of Lords voted in favour of implementing an absolute ban on detaining pregnant women. In response, the government only then made concessions, and Section 60 of the Immigration Act 2016 was introduced which, although not ending detention of pregnant women, limited the detention of this vulnerable cohort under immigration powers for no more than 72 hours, unless extended up to a maximum of seven days with ministerial approval.

Limiting detention to 72 hours is not good enough – a lot can happen to a pregnant women in 72 hours. Medical Justice continues to call for an absolute ban on detaining pregnant women.

2016 : pregnant women detained while having a miscarriage subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment

In 2019 a Vietnamese trafficking victim, pregnant as a result of rape, won her case against the Home Office. She was barely able to stand when stopped at Heathrow airport. She started to bleed but was held for eight hours and subjected to repeated questions. She was finally taken to hospital doctors thought she should stay overnight because it was likely she was having a miscarriage. But she was taken put in detention for 3 days instead. The Home Office admitted that the woman was detained unlawfully and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

[1]R (Yiyu Chen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [CO/1119/2013].

[2] R(PA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [CO/1978/2014].