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The News Line: News Close down every immigration centre ALL IMMIGRATION centres should be shut down because they are extremely damaging to the health of the refugee and asylum seekers who are incarcerated in them, doctors warned yesterday in a newly released report entitled ‘Locked up, locked out’.


The report says that 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.

This means that asylum seekers and refugees are detained indefinitely – worse than a prison sentence, because there is no time limit on the amount of years they can be locked up for. The report, from the BMA medical ethics committee, is part of the Association’s aims to ‘defend human rights, ensuring access to healthcare for all, and standing up for vulnerable groups’.

It uncovers 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, vary and are often inadequate.

The report also highlights 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, immediate past chair of the BMA’s civil and public services committee (CSPC), 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.’

Dr 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.’
 
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