A new time limit on the detention of pregnant women in immigration custody has been welcomed by Wealden’s MP.
Nus Ghani has been pushing for a change in the rules, which currently mean that pregnant women are treated no differently than other detainees, despite their vulnerable status and extra health and welfare needs.
But Home Secretary Theresa May has announced the Government’s intention to amend the Immigration Bill currently going through Parliament, which means expectant mothers will only be able to be held by immigration officials for a maximum of 72 hours.
Ms Ghani, who has raised concerns about the treatment of pregnant women in detention on a number of occasions, said: “I am very pleased that the pressure we have been putting on the Home Office has resulted in this change in policy.
“Maintaining the security of our borders is one of the first objectives of any government, but it must be done in a way which takes account of the health and welfare needs of vulnerable pregnant women.
“As a compassionate Conservative, this has been a primary concern of mine as an MP, and since my election I have consistently raised my concerns about the contrast between the treatment available to women in my constituency at an award-winning midwifery unit, and the treatment that women in detention are able to access.
“Making sure that they are in detention for as little time as possible makes it easier and safer for them to access the treatment they may need, so today’s announcement is a big step forward.”
She has questioned the current policy in a House of Commons debate on healthcare in the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, as well as in questions to both Mrs May and the immigration minister during Home Affairs Select Committee inquiries.
Ms Ghani expressed concern to Mrs May that ‘women were not provided with the same duty of care as they would have been if they were in a prison – for example, they could not shower with privacy, could not access healthcare’.
This week Mrs May said: “The Government has listened carefully to concerns expressed in Parliament and by others and believes that the proposed amendment, combined with the wider reforms, strikes the right balance between protecting vulnerable women and maintaining effective and proportionate immigration control.”
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