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New research highlights impact of detention on mental and physical health of immigration detainees

By October 23, 2014November 4th, 2016Press release

New research by Refugee Action substantiates the impact of detention on the physical and mental health and on wellbeing of detainees, as well as problems with access to legal advice. Refugee Action is a national charity working for a more just asylum system and to enable refugees to build a new life in the UK.

In late 2013, Refugee Action staff interviewed 37 male detainees in five immigration removal centres (IRCs) in South East England (Harmondsworth, Colnbrook, Dover, Brook House and Tinsley House).

The research found that a majority of those interviewed (62 per cent) said that they had developed a physical or mental health condition whilst in detention and almost two-thirds of those who said that they had requested medical assistance had not received it or stated that they had been given inadequate support.

Many spoke of their unhappiness and their feelings of loneliness and depression. One summed up: ‘I feel like an animal in a cage. I feel isolated and very lonely.’

Most said that they had not been told about their legal rights, including the right to apply for bail during their induction and how to make an appointment with a solicitor on their first day in detention.

Chief Executive of Refugee Action Dave Garratt says:

“This research reveals the shocking truth that immigration detention not only causes health problems but exacerbates existing health conditions because of lack of medical assistance and inadequate care. As part of the on-going Parliamentary inquiry into detention, we are calling on the Home Office to urgently review the healthcare provided, and develop a robust health strategy that better addresses the physical and mental health needs of detainees.”

Former detainee Nabil Al-Inzy, who has visited men in IRCs through his work, says:

“When you meet the detainees, you see that some of their complexions are a yellow colour – some told me they didn’t breathe fresh air or see the sunlight. Many lost weight because they lost their appetite.”

Refugee Action believes that:

  • Arbitrary immigration detention and inhumane removal processes have no place in the UK.
  • The Home Office should commission a comprehensive and independent review of healthcare services – including mental healthcare services in IRCs and devise a robust strategy, in consultation with the voluntary sector, to better address the health needs of immigration detainees.
  • IRCs should provide all detainees with an induction, in their own language, on the day of arrival which includes an explanation of how to access legal advice within the IRC and on their right to seek advice about bail

Further information

For more detail on the research findings and Refugee Action recommendations, please see our media briefing on detention.

For more information on the Parliamentary inquiry into detention, visit Refugee Action’s official written submission can be found here on our website.

Refugee Action is a member of the Detention Forum which is running an Unlocking Detention campaign.

Media enquiries

Please Refugee Action’s media team to arrange interviews with spokespeople and former detainees.

Get involved

To take a stand against immigration detention, visit the Unlocking Detention campaign website.

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