Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
MP for Bedford and Kempston, Richard Fuller, spoke out for pregnant women in the asylum system at an event in Parliament on Monday 25 February.
Richard was hosting the launch of new research from The Refugee Council and Maternity Action that showed UK Border Agency policies are putting the health of hundreds of pregnant women and their babies at risk, by moving them to accommodation around the country, thereby removing them from essential healthcare and leading to isolation.
The charities are calling for women in the asylum system to be allowed to prepare for motherhood and access the healthcare they need.
Richard Fuller MP said:
“Every woman should be allowed dignity in pregnancy, no matter what their immigration status. The Government has recognised this with recent changes but I want to see them go further to ensure a health pregnancy and birth.”
The report explains that asylum seeking women in the UK have high risk pregnancies, often due to serious mental and physical health conditions having fled torture, or sexual violence in their own countries. The study found, however, that due to UKBA’s policies, such women are being separated from the specialist treatment they need throughout their pregnancies, contrary to guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The report found examples of:
• Pregnant women being moved away from essential healthcare against medical advice and too close to their due date
• Women being moved to new accommodation multiple times during pregnancy
• Women being separated from the father of their baby, and giving birth alone in new area, with no access to interpreters
• Wasted NHS resources: midwives were not always informed when their patients were moved and spent time searching for them, and scans and tests had to be repeated in their new area.
Maternity Action and the Refugee Council are calling on the government to urgently review its policies to ensure that pregnant women in the asylum system, and their babies, are no longer put at risk.
Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives says:
“It is shocking that in a country which, arguably, has one of the best maternity services in the world more is not being done to prevent such vulnerable women being denied high quality care. Our society is failing these women and their babies. This is not acceptable particularly when the solutions are so obvious.”
Shān Nicholas, Interim Chief Executive at the Refugee Council said:
“We work with pregnant women every day who have been ripped away from their families and healthcare, causing undue distress and health problems at what should be an exciting and positive time of their lives. 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.”
Rosalind Bragg, Director at Maternity Action said:
“The very poor health of pregnant women in the asylum system is well documented. It is high time the UKBA recognised asylum seeking women as being a particularly vulnerable group with complex needs, and urgently ensure their policies reflect this. All women deserve to be treated with dignity during pregnancy.”