Hospital Dr News

Health services in immigration detention centres need overhaul, says BMA

Health needs of migrants and asylum seekers cannot be met in immigration centres, warns the BMA.

Its report says the detention of people who have not been convicted of a crime should be a measure of ‘last resort’ and should be phased out.

Locked up, locked out outlines how aspects of current detention policies and practices, such as no clear time-limits on how long people will be detained, are detrimental to the health of migrants and asylum-seekers, and also sets out the challenges doctors face when providing healthcare in detention settings.

The report, from the BMA medical ethics committee, shows how doctors, immigration centre staff and detainees feel a ‘deep frustration’ with healthcare provision, staffing levels, and the availability of and access to on-site services and referrals to specialists.

It also expresses concerns about individuals with mental health problems and asserts that the environment of an immigration detention centre can worsen or contribute to mental illness.

Many of those detained are highly vulnerable and some have been victims of torture.

Dr Alan Mitchell, works as a part-time GP in an immigration removal centre, and contributed to the BMA’s report.

He said: “One of the most distressing cases I came across recently was in relation to a young man who was in an immigration detention centre who had been sexually abused. He came to the United Kingdom and while an asylum seeker was able to access community mental health services.

Mitchell added: “He was a vulnerable adult and he was unsuitable to be in immigration detention.

“I made a report to the Home Office, and the Home Office released him shortly afterwards but because his status remained that of a failed asylum seeker, he was unable to access the help that he needed. That definitely contributed to him falling into a downward spiral.”

The report recommends:

  • Revising detention policies to address the significant health effects indeterminate detention can have on individuals
  • Addressing aspects of the detention environment which affect the health and wellbeing of those detained
  • Reconfiguring current healthcare provision so as to better achieve equivalence of care.

The UK has one of the largest immigration detention estates in Europe, with 11 immigration removal centres across the country, holding up to 3,500 individuals at any one time.

It is only one of a handful of European countries where no time-limits are imposed on detention.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, said: “Migrants and asylum-seekers shouldn’t have their health-related human rights infringed and must be able to access healthcare adequate for their needs.

“The BMA hopes to work with policy-makers and other organisations to restructure and develop policies that meet the health needs of people in detention and ensure doctors can meet their ethical and professional obligations. A fundamental rethink of current policies is required.”

Bookmark and Share

Post a Comment

Enter this security code

Submit Comment for Moderation