Over the last decade, the daily population of immigration detainees has ranged from around 700 (when the impact of Covid-19 was most pronounced) to 3,500.
A significant proportion of those claiming asylum in the UK are victims of modern slavery (trafficking, forced labour, servitude or slavery), and are referred as such to the National Referral Mechanism. These numbers are on the rise; 4,171 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office in April-June 2022, a 34% increase from the same quarter in 2021 (3,124). Across 2021 and up to June 2022, NRM data showed that over 90% of the claims received a positive reasonable grounds decision. However, government data shows that the average time taken from referral to conclusive decision is 536 days. Some survivors continue to be detained while waiting this decision.
Those in detention can be highly traumatised, but survivors of trafficking and exploitation are often afraid to speak out for fear of stigma, threats from traffickers and fear of authorities. Although Home Office policy has stated that victims of trafficking are only suitable for detention under ‘exceptional circumstances’ (and in 2021 survivors of trafficking were brought under the ‘Adults at Risk policy’), government-commissioned or parliamentary reports and inquiries have already highlighted that the Home Office is failing to identify vulnerable people, or even to release people from detention once they are identified as vulnerable or trafficked.
Medical Justice send independent volunteer clinicians to visit people held in Immigration Removal Centres across the UK, and document their scars of torture and other serious medical conditions including mental health.
Evidence from this casework is fed into their research into systemic failures in healthcare provision, the harm caused by these shortcomings, as well as the toxic effect of immigration detention itself on the health of people in detention. Medical Justice uses its research, policy work, strategic litigation and parliamentary work to campaign for lasting change.
Treebeard is providing core, multi-year funding to Medical Justice.