Pregnant asylum-seekers ‘at risk’ of developing mental and physical health problems

 

Pregnant asylum seekers in Britain are at “serious risk” of developing mental and physical health problems as a result of systemic failings, a report claims.

‘When Maternity Doesn’t Matter: Dispersing Pregnancy Women Seeking Asylum’ is a collaborative investigation by Maternity Action and the Refugee Council claiming the UK Border Agency [UKBA]is “failing” vulnerable women.

The report focuses on the relocation of pregnant women awaiting a decision on their application to the UK Borders Agency, who were moved between accommodation including hostels and detention centres, across the country. This is claimed to severely jeopardise the quality and continuity of care, endangering the health of mother and child and leaving women suicidal.

Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, who wrote the foreword to the report, says the findings are “shocking”: “All of these vulnerable women have social problems and money of them also have medical problems, such as HIV or other serious infections, complicating their pregnancy”. Midwives and health workers, she adds, are at a loss to help: “The system is working against [them] failing to heed their advice or recognise their knowledge and expertise”.

The study published today consulted 20 asylum seekers, as well as health workers. One had HIV, two were sickle cell carriers, one had experienced Female Genital Mutilation [FGM], one had Hepatitis B, one had a history of ectopic pregnancy and one had had her fibroid removed which would complicate delivery.

13 were already in their final trimester of pregnancy when they were moved, eight were in their last month, and one was rehoused to the opposite side of the country the day before she gave birth. More than half described experiencing mental health problems during their pregnancy on top of physical problems, and three women attempted suicide as a result.

Giving evidence, a woman called Irene said she escaped Kenya after being raped, and so to avoid FGM and a forced marriage, and after three years living in London was dispersed to a hostel in the north of England, while pregnant. At the hostel, she said, she was told she couldn’t register for a GP or midwife but was seen by an on-site nurse who gave a her a TB jab and prescribed her anti-depressants, both dangerous for pregnant women. Following an emergency caesarean she claimed she was given no money for two weeks and had to climb stairs carrying her baby despite medical advice to the contrary.

A midwife reporting on a separate patient who was facing dispersal while 28 weeks pregnant said: “She was distraught. Her mental health was suffering.”

While the UKBA does not hold records on the number of asylum seekers who are pregnant, a Freedom of Information request shows 615 applied for maternity grants in the first six months of 2011, giving some indication of the number of pregnant women in the system.

Cathy Warwick concluded: “Our society is failing these women and their babies. This is not acceptable particularly when the solutions are so obvious”.

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: ""We consider every case individually and, wherever possible, women in the latter stages of pregnancy will not be moved to a different area. Last year we introduced a revised pregnancy dispersal policy which includes a commitment to not move any pregnant woman during the four weeks before or after her due date.”

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'