We have moved to place robust limits on the detention of pregnant women. Our clients had been deprived of basic ante-natal care and had suffered ill-treatment at the hands of immigration officers. Pressure from this litigation (MS & Ors) and IPLA’s lobbying of Parliament aided by our clients’ testimonies, resulted in a 72-hour limit on such detention, set out in Section 60 of the Immigration Act 2016. This came into force on 12 July 2016.
While the s.60 amendment is an improvement, the most traumatising experiences of our clients, in being arrested, transferred and detained, occurred in the first 72 hours of their detention. Of the three clients were represented in this challenge, two were sick on themselves in the transfer van, and the other was told to urinate in a sick bag, on the basis that there is no safe place to stop. We are looking to challenge the detention of pregnant women in any circumstances.
Indeed, in his 2016 report ‘Review into the welfare in detention of vulnerable persons’, senior civil servant Stephen Shaw called for an absolute ban on the detention of pregnant women. When he appeared before the Home Affairs Committee on 9 February 2017, Shaw clarified that ‘it is simply impossible, inconceivable, to deliver care, whether it be maternal care or care for pregnant women or mental healthcare, that is equivalent to the very best in the community. The very nature of detention speaks against that.’