The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for an end to immigration detention centres.
According to The Guardian, the BMA calls for “sweeping changes” to immigration detention procedures because of a range of concerns about issues including restraint, segregation, PTSD and the management of complex health conditions. BMA chiefs say a “fundamental rethink” is required by the Home Office.
This latest intervention from the BMA follows a previous assessment last year that found medical guidance in detention centres were not “fit for purpose.” It is the first time that the doctors’ union has made such a strong call.
The new BMA report is highly critical of the Home Office and also of NHS England, which has been responsible for commissioning healthcare in IRCs in England since 2013. “Problems with the accuracy and timeliness of health assessments, availability of services, staff shortages, and ensuring continuity of care have all been identified as adversely impacting on the standard of care provided in detention. For some detainees with complex health needs, there is a question of whether their needs can be met in the detention setting,” the BMA states.
The BMA’s assessment follows what The Guardian calls “the deadliest year on record” for detention centres: 10 detainees have died in 2017, many from suicide. The Guardian writes that the Home Office often failed to even publicise the deaths and release the name of people who died.
The UK’s immigration detention system – the largest in Europe, and oft-decried for its absence of time limits for detention – is attracting other stinging criticism, after years of campaigning from human rights activists. The former Tory international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, last week called the UK’s 11 immigration centres a “dystopian stain on our democracy”.
One of the latest tragedies to emerge from immigration detention centres came from Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, where Polish detainee Marcin Gwozdzinski took his own life in September after repeatedly being denied mental health support.
A written statement, signed by 59 fellow detainees of various nationalities, unequivocally blames the death of their “friend” on the authorities. “For a long time he [Gwozdzinski] asked officers, psychologists and doctors for help. He was ignored,” states the carefully handwritten letter. “Many times he asked for help. Therefore myself and other detainees are very anxious and depressed about the situation. It is a disgrace that nobody has been [made] accountable for such poor care. We are human beings not animals.”