The Mental Health in Immigration Detention Project (MHIDP) is a policy initiative which aims to secure the humane and lawful treatment of immigration detainees. It is a joint project by the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID).
The project was started in 2010 in response to policy changes by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), bringing together the concerns of visitors groups and detention organisations, and drawing on expert advice from specialist lawyers and clinicians.
We believe that people with mental illness should never be subjected to immigration detention. However, while people with mental illness are being detained, we aim to ensure:
- That they are treated humanely and in accordance with best practice, receiving care equivalent to that found in the community.
- That the UKBA acknowledges its duty of care for people with mental ill health, and exercises that positive duty in accordance with its legal obligations
A new briefing 'Positive Duty of Care? The mental health crisis in immigration detention' by the Mental Health in Immigration Detention Project can be downloaded from the bottom of the page.
It has been acknowledged by the National Clinical Director for Health and Criminal Justice for the Department of Health that custody causes mental distress and acts to exacerbate existing mental health problems, heighten vulnerability and increase the risk of self-harm and suicide. Studies in the criminal justice sector show that there is a greater risk of suicide among certain ‘high risk’ groups in custody including young adults, males, those who have suffered a previous traumatic experience, and those who do not have family or social support. The UK’s immigration detention population includes high proportions of each. It is well documented that the effect of custody on mental health also holds for immigration detention; that the mental well-being of both adults and children is damaged by detention, and that the open-ended nature of immigration detention is particularly damaging. One recent study found even higher levels of suicide and self harm amongst immigration detainees than amongst the prison population
This picture is recognised by staff and volunteers at BID and by the member organisations of AVID, who are in daily and often long-term contact with large numbers of people in immigration detention, as visitors, visitor coordinators and legal advisors.
The last twelve months have seen the first three cases in the UK in which the treatment of severely mentally ill men in detention was found to have been unlawful and to have breached their Article 3 rights (inhuman and degrading treatment). These are extreme examples of what we believe is a crisis of mental health in immigration detention.