Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More On Yarl's Wood And Child Detention

Interestingly the Yarl's Wood Inspection report comes a day after yet another in a long line of reports critical of the treatment of children in the UK's detention system, this one from Refugee and Migrant Justice entitled 'Safe at Last? Children on the front line of UK Border Control', and also just two days after news that three doctors at Yarl's Wood itself are facing investigation by the General Medical Council.

'Safe at Last?' documents some pretty appalling treatment meted out to child migrants upon their arrival in the UK, being forced to undertake "oppressive and unlawful" interviews even before being offered basic welfare like rest and food or basic health care.

Zubier, a 16 year old from Afghanistan suffered serious leg injuries when his neighbour's house was bombed by Allied forces. He subsequently suffered abuse at the hands of his father's family and the Taliban after his father had died. His maternal uncle organised his escape, paying an agent but the people traffickers bet him as well because his injured legs slowed him down. His journey took many months via Greece and the 'Jungle' in Calais, where he was stabbed and the wound became infected.

He eventually made it across the Channel but was intercepted in Dover in the early morning. Taken to Dover IRC, he was strip-searched but not offered a doctor. Eventually, he was interviewed later that afternoon with the use of an interpreter on a phone line.

Imagine: you are a scared 16 year old, confused and in a great deal of pain, being interviewed by strange men in uniform who speak a language you don't understand and have to get another stranger on a telephone to interpret for you. He tells you that you are talking too much and to only give short answers to questions. You tell the interviewer about you injuries and that you are in a lot of pain but he doesn't want to see your injuries, all he is interested in is if you can continue and what happened on your journey.

The interview takes ages and then they leave you alone. Eventually you are taken to a hostel and days later a social worker turns up and only then are you taken to hospital, where you are told you are very ill and may have to have one of your legs amputated. Then you discover that your asylum claim was refused because you didn't give enough information during the interview when you first arrived. How would you feel, especially when you find out that one of your brothers had since been killed? Even being granted special leave to remain because of your age is little comfort and cannot stop the nightmares and panic attacks.

This is the sort of story that is used to illustrate the systematic failure by the UK Borders Agency to follow the statutory guidance published under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 in the way the Illegal Entry Interviews are carried out with minors, though many of us would also criticise their use with adults.

On the Yarl's Wood health care front, the Inspectorate's report was on the whole positive:

Healthcare provision had also improved, particularly for children, with specialist mental and physical health services. - Introduction.

Clinical governance and management of health services had significantly improved. A female GP attended once a week. Detainees had good access to primary care services. Many detainees complained about delays in seeing healthcare staff and there could be some long waits for additional clinics when detainees attended at the same time. GP clinics were available every weekday and on Saturday mornings. In contrast to clinics, there were no significant waiting times for routine appointments and detainees were seen on the same or following day following nurse triage. - Safety HE.21.

Yet the privately-run subcontracted health care provision at the detention centre continues to draw criticism and demands for it to be returned to the NHS. There is usually no smoke without fire to use an old cliché.

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