Intended for healthcare professionals


Inadequate mental healthcare in immigration removal centres

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 11 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6627
  1. H Grant-Peterkin, specialist registrar, adult and older adult psychiatry1,
  2. T Schleicher, casework manager2,
  3. M Fazel, National Institute for Health Research postdoctoral research fellow3,
  4. S Majid, consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy4,
  5. K Robjant, consultant psychologist5,
  6. G Smith, policy analyst 6,
  7. C Katona, professor of psychiatry6
  1. 1East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Medical Justice, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  4. 4Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  5. 5Helen Bamber Foundation, London, UK
  6. 6Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: H Grant-Peterkin Hugh.Grant-Peterkin{at}

Doctors must not be complicit in a system that prioritises deterrence over protection of refugees and asylum seekers

The number of people held in immigration removal centres in the UK has steadily increased, with a total of over 30 000 held in 2013.1 At any one time, up to 3000 people can be detained.

The standard of healthcare within centres in England remains a serious cause for concern.2 Although immigration detention is for administrative purposes (to process an asylum application or to facilitate removal from the UK), detainees and staff both view it as punitive.3 No time limit currently exists on the duration of detention, and detainees can remain in limbo for several years, not knowing their ultimate fate.

Such evidence that exists indicates that immigration detention can be harmful to mental health, especially for people with pre-existing mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. A systematic review of 10 studies investigating the effect of immigration detention identified high levels of mental health problems among detainees. Time spent in detention was shown to be …

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