UKBA 'endangers pregnant refugees'
UK border officials have been attacked in a damning report for endangering the health of hundreds of pregnant women and their babies.
Asylum-seeking women in Britain have high-risk pregnancies due to serious health problems, having fled torture, sexual violence or female genital mutilation in their own countries, a joint report from Maternity Action and the Refugee Council said.
The study found pregnant women are being moved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to new accommodation multiple times, while others are being moved against medical advice and some are giving birth alone.
Royal College of Midwives general secretary Cathy Warwick said: "Our society is failing these women and their babies. This is not acceptable, particularly when the solutions are so obvious."
The UKBA provides accommodation to asylum-seekers on a "no-choice basis" in a process known as dispersal, the report said, with applicants provided with transport to their new accommodation by housing providers.
Interviews with 20 women and 17 midwives involved in their care found that their health was being put at risk as they are moved to accommodation around the country, removing them from essential healthcare and "leading to isolation".
The report found that many asylum-seeking women are suffering from serious mental health conditions, including severe depression, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. Refugee Council interim chief executive Shan Nicholas said: "The UKBA must stop sending pregnant women to live in new cities unless all risks have been considered and adequate healthcare arrangements have been made."
The report also found that NHS resources were being wasted, as scans and tests were often repeated in new areas after women were moved.
Maternity Action and the Refugee Council urged the Government to review its policies to ensure pregnant women in the asylum system, and their babies, are no longer at risk.
A UKBA spokesman said: "This report draws conclusions from a small sample of cases and doesn't take into account recent changes we have made. We consider every case individually and, wherever possible, women in the latter stages of pregnancy will not be moved to a different area. Last year we introduced a revised pregnancy dispersal policy which includes a commitment to not move any pregnant woman during the four weeks before or after her due date. Any asylum seeker is only moved to a different area if it is safe and practical to do so and those with severe or complex healthcare needs have their clinicians notified throughout the process."