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New U.K. policy will put trafficking survivors at increased risk of suicide

  • Published on
    April 23, 2021
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  • Category:
    Human Trafficking, Law & Policy
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The U.K. Royal College of Psychiatrists (RSP) have released a report this week calling on U.K. MPs not to detain trafficking and torture survivors on the basis of their extreme vulnerability to the risk of depression and suicide.

According to RSP president, Dr. Adrian James, these groups need access to mental health services that are not available in detention centers. They need, he insists, to remain within the community.

But U.K. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, intends to detain more trafficking survivors – knowingly – if their immigration status is insecure. Under existing policies, identified trafficking survivors are automatically considered for release from detention so that they can begin to recover from the trauma and injustice of their mistreatment. From May 25 onwards, only survivors who are determined to be at risk of “future harm” will be released.

Lead author of the RCP report, Professor Cornelius Katona told the Independent:

“The perilous conditions of immigration detention centres are putting a vulnerable group of people at a much-increased risk of worsening mental health and suicide.

“The government must stop detaining asylum seekers and survivors of trafficking with a mental illness and allow them to receive the support they need, either in the community or in an inpatient setting.

“Staff working in these centres must also be trained in identifying the early signs of a mental illness and on safeguarding detainees with limited decision-making capacity.”

The RCP says detention centers are not equipped to make this assessment of future harm accurately. They note that, “People with significant mental illness may have particular difficulty in being effective self-advocates. Their very vulnerability may prevent them from providing adequate evidence for that vulnerability.”

This is yet another way the U.K. Home Office is creating a dangerous environment for trafficking survivors instead of supporting them – an inconsistent position for a government that claims to lead the world in protecting modern slavery survivors to rebuild their lives.

According to Dr. James, “Many have been subjected to horrifying events which are only compounded by immigration detention centres. The government must end the practice of detaining mentally ill asylum seekers.” Freedom United and partners are urgently calling on the U.K. to review this policy and stop detaining survivors.

We have launched a new campaign urging governments to stop detaining survivors for not having secure immigration status, and meet international standards designed to protect survivors from further trauma and revictimization.

Sign the petition and join the global call on governments to stop detaining trafficking survivors and release all potential and confirmed survivors from detention.


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