Views & Reviews Personal View

Adult and child asylum seekers should be treated with humanity

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 07 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5571
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

The last time I wrote about healthcare for asylum seekers, a year ago, it was in the midst of a vigorous expression of outrage (BMJ 2010;341:c4106, doi:10.1136/bmj.c4106). Previously, petitions had been endorsed by the royal colleges of paediatricians, psychiatrists, and general practitioners, calling for children to no longer be detained in immigration detention centres. In 2008 and 2009 at least 1315 children were detained in the Dungavel and Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centres. In December 2010 Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, who had previously said that the detention of children was a “moral outrage,” ( declared that “we will ensure it never happens again” (

He gave a date of May 2011 and confirmed that the family wing of Yarl’s Wood was closing. Guilt seemed to have caught up with the coalition government. There was agreement that change was needed—and a promise to do it.

All sorted? How I wish it was. Asylum seekers are multiply vulnerable, escaping from environments we can be glad we have never experienced, often damaged by what they have endured, and now in …

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