Expecting Change: The case for ending the detention of pregnant women, Natasha Tsangarides and Jane Grant, Medical Justice 2013, pp. 86, (ISBN 978-0-9566784-3-0)

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According to the Independent Monitoring Board, 93 pregnant women were held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in 2011, many of whom were
victims of rape, torture and trafficking. This report analyses the policy of detaining pregnant women, arguing that as the primary purpose of detention is removal the fact that only about 5% of pregnant women can be removed - mainly because there is no medically safe way to return them - means that the case for their confinement is “ineffective, unworkable and damaging”.

The report also found that the healthcare received by detained pregnant women is “inadequate”, falling short of National Health Service and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) standards. The stress of detention can impact on their mental health and asylum seeking women have poorer maternity outcomes than the general population.

Self-harm, hunger strikes and reports of assault and racism are common, and the report notes that “in four separate cases in the past two years, the High Court has ruled that the care of four detainees amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Tsangarides and Grant conclude that “detention is no place for a pregnant woman” because it does not serve any purpose: “the costs are great and the damage to women’s health can be dramatic. This recommendation is in line with Asylum Aid’s Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum that is supported by 337 organisations, including the Royal College of Midwives.” Available as a free download at: http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/images/stories/reports/expectingchange.pdf

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