The damage: Custody takes toll on detainees

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The Independent Online

Dr Michael Peel, senior medical examiner at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, says jailing asylum seekers is 'inhuman and degrading'. It puts refugees at risk of permanent psychological damage, with reactions such as panic attacks, severe depression and suicidal tendencies, he says.

"Being in prison will make the refugees' psychological state worse. Just the fact that they are being detained with no idea why or when they will be released can cause major depression and post-traumatic stress.

"What also concerns me is the lack of other people, the isolation in prisons. Asylum seekers are treated worse than remand prisoners.

"For victims tortured in their own country, the mere sound of heavy boots and jangling keys can bring back negative experiences. People released from torture are healed by being involved in a community and trusted. Prison undermines this; they become more isolated and withdrawn. The prison health service is badly under-resourced anyway.

"I carried out a medical report for one asylum seeker in prison. He was distressed because convicted criminals were being allowed to go home and he was still there in prison with no idea how long he was going to be there or why he was there."