12.00 noon Wednesday 4th October
Outside the Home Office - 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
"I was a victim of the Ugandan authorities and this inquiry shows I became a victim of the UK authorities". Enid Ruhango (Ms B) - ex-detainee
"The overall picture the inquiry paints of institutional malfunction at Yarl's Wood is very disturbing. But not nearly as disturbing as the reality". Dr Frank Arnold - Medical Justice
The chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, is publishing today the inquiry into how Sophie Odogo, a Ugandan asylum seeker, was reduced to a state of mental collapse at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre and the healthcare provided there. Sophie's case, a catalogue of alleged abuse, self-harm, and the self-inflicted death of Manuel Bravo at Yarl's Wood while Sophie and Enid were detained there, led Medical Justice, Alistair Burt MP and others to call for an inquiry into the treatment of detainees at Yarl's Wood.
Sophie is a rape and torture survivor, who was detained for 7 months whilst her asylum claim was determined through the "Fast Track" process at Yarl's Wood, the UK's main immigration removal centre for women and families. She and her room-mate, Enid Ruhango, were part of a 38 day mass hunger-strike by detainees. They were both hospitalised a number of times and on release, Sophie was discharged to the psychiatric wing of the Maudsley Hospital were she was admitted for over 6 months.
Attending the press conference and available for interview ;
Enid Ruhango - Sophie Odogo's room-mate at Yarl's Wood
Gill Butler - Sophie Odogo's Yarl's Wood Befriender and Litigation Friend
Dr Felicity de Zulueta - Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Trust
Dr Frank Arnold - Medical Justice
Harriet Wistrich - Birnberg Peirce & Partners Solicitors
Office of Alistair Burt MP - representatives will speak on his behalf
Sophie Odogo will be present but is unable to be interviewed.
Medical Justice regards the most important recommendations in today's report :
o The healthcare service was not geared to meet the needs of those with serious health problems or the significant number of detainees held for longer periods for whom prolonged and uncertain detention was itself likely to be detrimental to their well being. The number of detainees has more than doubled in the last year, as had the number detained for more than 3 months, and that one woman had been detained for 18 months.
o The management arrangements for healthcare are complex Š it was not easy to establish where responsibility for specific service delivery lay
o There are weak clinical governance systems, inadequate staff training, insufficiently detailed policies and protocols, that mental health care provision is insufficient, and that these inadequacies are compounded by the unresponsiveness of the IND to clinical concerns about an alleged history of torture or adverse medical consequences of continued detention.
o There is a growing concern among medical and other commentators that the increased use of immigration detention raises serious concerns about the mental health of detainees, particularly in cases of prolonged detention of uncertain duration.
o Independent medical opinion was not sought or adhered to and in some cases IND caseworkers, with no declared medical qualification, appeared to be making their own clinical judgements.
o There was evidence that IND caseworkers served removal directions on detainees late to pre-empt legal challenge
Medical Justice calls for ;
1. The Home Office to immediately arrangements for healthcare in detention centres to be transferred to the NHS.
2. The Home Office to stop violating its own policies by routinely detaining torture survivors, children, and people with serious medical and psychological problems.
3. Doctors and nurses in detention centres to make themselves familiar with, and act on national guidelines. These are required everywhere else in healthcare in the UK. Where appropriate guidelines do not exist, they should be produced as a matter of urgency.
"Some times I blank out, I can't hear what anyone is saying. Other times I feel I can't escape. They told me Manuel killed himself - perhaps death was his ultimate freedom."
Sophie Odogo (Ms A)
"I was a victim of the Ugandan authorities and this inquiry shows I became a victim of the UK authorities. When will my suffering end ? I have waited for 9 months for this inquiry. Every week I have reported to the Immigration Enforcement Unit - every time, and even today, I am liable to be detained again. In Uganda the torture was quicker. Here, living destitute, not entitled to medical treatment for the harm that has been inflicted on me, whether in detention or not, I die a little every day. The Home Office's strategy is to dehumanise, humiliate and inflict pain until we give up and go back to our country. I have seen bookcases of reports like this ; is this the one that will bring change ?"
Enid Ruhango (Ms B)
"For a long time Sophie was mute and she has severe memory problems. It's as if her natural defence mechanism blocks out traumatic memories, but she also can't remember simple, non-traumatic things. It's like her memory, her identity, has been snatched away. She is often confused and seems as though she has lost all her reference points. Some times the blocking evaporates and she is haunted by terrible flash-backs. Once I found her in the bushes, hiding, and petrified because she had seen a white van, and thought Yarl's Wood had come to take her back into detention. Sophie has not improved much since being released from Yarl's Wood 9 months ago. Right now she is not capable of living independently, but we are not giving up hope."
Gill Butler, Sophie Odogo's Yarl's Wood Befriender and Litigation Friend
"The inquiry highlights the existence of guidelines and policies which safeguard against ordinarily detaining victims of torture and those with serious mental illness, and that these policies are often breached. In Ms A's case there was lot of rubber stamping going on, which provided no safeguard whatsoever, and in fact actually meant nothing at all".
Harriet Wistrich - Birnberg Peirce & Partners Solicitors
"The HMICIP 's report on healthcare at Yarl's Wood IRC makes it clear that if Home Office's agencies adhered to their own criteria which exclude from detention 'those suffering from serious medical conditions and the mentally ill' and 'those where there is independent evidence that they have been tortured', there would be far fewer cases of neglect and abuse by their health care staff. How can the Home Office be made to account for breaching its own rules?"
Dr Felicity de Zulueta
Contact : email@example.com / 07703 189665
------------------------------- Background -------------------------------
Yarl's Wood: Inquiry into 'mistreatment' of Ugandan refugee - The Independent 20 Feb 2006
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article346541.ece / http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/YWHMIPinquiry.htm
Asylum seeker kills himself so child can stay in Britain, By Ian Herbert The Independent: 17 September 2005
"Driven To Desperate Measures" by the Institute of Race Relations, 16th Sept 2006, catalogues the deaths of 221 asylum seekers and migrants in the UK - http://www.irr.org.uk/pdf/Deperate_measures_draft.pdf (401kb)
"No Place For a Child", Campaign including Save the Children, the Refugee Council and Bail for Immigration Detainees
"Fit to be detained" by Bail for Immigration Detainees, Including a report by Médicins Sans Frontières - May 2005
A "Bleak House" for Our Times, An investigation into Yarl's Wood Removal Centre by Legal Action for Women
Last HMIP Inspection of Yarl's Wood
Medical Justice Network - Campaigning for the medical rights of immigration detainees - http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk