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Torture victims held in UK immigration detention centres launch legal action


The Guardian – Tuesday 22 May 2012.

An investigation by the Medical Justice Network (, a network of asylum detainees, doctors, lawyers and volunteers) based on a dossier of 50 cases, claims that torture victims are being routinely held in immigration detention centres in breach of the Home Office’s own rules.

Asylum seekers are widely portrayed in the UK media as opportunists and as scroungers who abuse the system to take advantage of our generous welfare state. This is not the reality I see. I have had the privilege of working with asylum seekers (many of whom were detained when I saw them or had been held in immigration detention but subsequently released) for several years. I have worked both with Medical Justice and with the Helen Bamber Foundation ( ), a charity working with victims of human rights abuse including sexual trafficking, domestic violence and torture. My experience is in keeping with the research evidence that asylum seekers, particularly those who have been held in immigration detention, very often have major mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and psychosis (Laban et al 2004; Robjant et al 2009). But many of the people I see are not just victims – they are also survivors, who have shown remarkable resilience, courage, dignity and grace – not only in escaping their countries of origin but also, once in the UK, in coping with the myriad obstacles that impede their progress towards integrating their terrible past experiences and regaining health, work, and a full family and social life.

Laban C, Gernaat HBPE, Komproe IH et al (2004) Impact of a Long Asylum Procedure on the Prevalence of Psychiatric Disorders in Iraqi Asylum Seekers in The Netherlands J Nerv Ment Dis 192: 843–851

Robjant K, Hassan R and Katona C (2009) Mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers: a systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry 194, 306-312

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