Helping detainees in need of medical assistance

A look back at 2018 – Annual Review

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

We released our Annual Review 2018-19 in July, at our AGM.

In the week the report went to print, 7 of our clients were scheduled to be removed from the UK (one of them twice). None of them ultimately were. Two had been released by the end of the week. Most of them are likely to be granted leave to remain eventually. This is an indication of the effectiveness of our casework and fantastic volunteer doctors and interpreters, carrying out assessments and writing up reports at all hours. It also indicates how many people the Home Office attempts to remove who are medically unfit to fly or who have scars of torture which they have not had the opportunity to documented until they got within days of being removed.

Our clinicians remain troubled by the inadequate healthcare in detention and the risks to people’s lives that are taken – for example, delays in obtaining clinical results and a failure to share them with the patient, including cases of inadequate monitoring for cancer of the blood, anticoagulant medication, and diabetes. Another of many examples is a reluctance to transfer patients to hospital as an emergency when this is indicated.

A volunteer visiting an immigration removal centre for the first time said “I have been a doctor for over 10 years and am used to seeing patients who may be vulnerable or are suffering physically or mentally. But there was helplessness, despair and fear most apparent in these patients that was totally alien to me. It is hard to see how the environment would not adversely affect any person’s physical and mental health, let alone the most vulnerable.”

In his second Home Office commissioned review of the detention of vulnerable detainees, Stephen Shaw found that 44% of detainees were classed as Adults at Risk. Identifying people as being at risk without releasing them is indefensible in our view. Shaw noted : ‘Every [immigration removal] centre manager told me they had seen no difference in number of vulnerable detainees and in some cases it had increased’. Clearly the Home Office’s incongruously named “Adults at Risk” policy is failing to protect vulnerable people.

Medical Justice successfully challenged the “Adults at Risk” policy, again. Detainees previously acknowledged by the Home Office as a torture victim were later not accepted as such using the newer definition.

We intervened in the Supreme Court case of KV, a Sri Lankan who had scars ‘highly consistent’ with having been burnt with hot metal rods. Lower courts said the scars could have been ‘self-inflicted by proxy’ and that the medical expert had ‘trespassed beyond their proper remit”. The Supreme Court questioned the ‘self-infliction by proxy’ reasoning and reasserted the role of the medical expert in documenting torture scars.

We initiated a legal challenge of the “no-notice” removals policy which enabled the Home Office to refuse a migrant’s case and forcibly deport them, within hours and in many cases without access to legal representation.

Medical Justice was quoted 30 times in the media, including by the Times, the Huffington Post, the International Bar Association, the British Medical Journal, the Independent, the Guardian, BBC News and Channel 5 News.

We ended the financial year with an uplifting agreement from parliamentarians that establishing an All Party Parliamentary Group was apt, and that Medical Justice is well placed to act as the secretariat.

 

Read the full report.