The British Red Cross has recently published its report on the humanitarian consequences of detention “Never Truly Free”.Never-Truly-Free-March-2018 (3)-ilovepdf-compressed (3)

The report focuses particularly on the impact on mental health. The service users detained were caught in a state of uncertainty which was incredibly distressing. They did not know if they would be deported to the country from which they had fled; nor when they would be released. Two of the service users saw others try to commit suicide; 4 had considered it and 5 actually had attempted suicide. 25 of the 26 had had no access to mental health services. Most reported they left detention feeling as if they had been treated like criminals – that being in prison would actually have been better as they would know when they would be released. After release they were often unable to get asylum support; they still had to report frequently and lived in fear of being detained again.

The report was raised by Sally Hamwee in a House of Lords debate when she quoted extensively from it about the awful health, particularly mental health long term consequences on those detained “Immigration detention has a known negative impact on mental health. Most detainees will have experienced some form of trauma in their life before detention, the effects of which can be exacerbated in detention”. It also stated: “The damage done by detention does not simply go away once someone is released and the negative impact on mental health persists long after detention”.

She went on to challenge how the Government were assessing how vulnerable people were when deciding whether they could be detained or not. (people are not supposed to be in immigration detention under rule 35 if they are deemed to be “ particularly vulnerable”). It is a complex argument, and she made the point that by their very nature, so many who arrived in the UK had undergone trauma.

The report makes a number of recommendations most of which are part of our Lib Dem policies. They include using detention only as a last resort, statutory maximum length of detention being 28 days, and vulnerable people should not be detained. It also recommends that the onerous and traumatic experience of immigration reporting should be overhauled including never detaining people when they attend to report, and providing end to end asylum support.