The Home Office is facing legal action over its provision of “manifestly inadequate” accommodation to asylum-seeking women including women pregnant or with new-born babies. The Royal College of Psychiatrists calls on the government to stop placing vulnerable asylum seekers in removal detention centres due to the risk of the deterioration of their mental health and increased risk of suicide.

According to the Independent, 8,000 asylum seekers are housed in emergency hotel accommodation given delays in the asylum system due to the COVID pandemic including 1,000 pregnant women, single mothers or families with small children. Lawyers have taken legal action against the Home Office over “manifestly inadequate” accommodation for pregnant women and women with new-born babies in “damp, dirty” hotel rooms “infested with cockroaches” and shared facilities for months at a time.

According to a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) the assessment of the mentally unwell detainees under the Adults at Risk policy by the Home Office is not sufficient: “People with significant mental illness may have particular difficulty in being effective self-advocates. Their very vulnerability may prevent them from providing adequate evidence for that vulnerability”. Accordingly, RCP warns that the “perilous” conditions of removal detention centres are leaving a vulnerable group of people including torture and trafficking survivors exposed to a “much-increased risk” of worsening mental health and suicide. A report by the Prison Inspectorate carried out in February in the notorious Napier barracks warns of “major weaknesses” in the treatment of people with serious mental health at the facility. The yet unpublished report was released to journalists after it was cited as evidence during a recent high-court hearing and describes seven incidents of self-harm and seven suicide attempts at Napier barracks.

On 19 April 113 migrants on seven small boats crossed the channel with French authorities stopping another 72 people, media reports. On 20 April, according to the Home Office six small boats with 132 people crossed the English Channel. French authorities prevented another 57 people on six boats from making the crossing. 1,732 people have made the crossing in 2021, 371 in April. 2,000 people have been prevented from making the crossing this year and there have been more than 60 prosecutions relating to small boats since the start of 2020.

The Guardian reports that charities and human rights campaigners are alarmed over a decision by the Home Office to charter its first ever deportation flight to Vietnam. While the individual circumstances of the group detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow are unclear, human rights groups warns that many Vietnamese migrants are subjected to human trafficking and exploitation in the UK. Outreach officer at Jesuit Refugee Service UK William Neal, stated: “We have often seen how charter flights are used to enforce blanket removal without sufficient legal scrutiny, and without proper consideration of the human impact of removal.” According to an email by a government lawyer obtained by Guardian: “of the 14 enforced removals, six did not spend five working days in an immigration removal centre (IRC) prior to the flight where they have access to legal advice surgeries and instead were held in prisons or a short-term holding facility for part of that period, where it is more difficult to access legal advice”. The flight took off from Birmingham on 22 April with 27 and removed 27 people.

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Photo: (CC) Jeff Djevdet, February 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.