Children made 'sick with fear' in UK immigration detention centres
Weight loss, difficulty sleeping, bed-wetting and sickness among symptoms found at Yarl's Wood
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 October 2009
Medical experts have found clear evidence that children held in UK immigration centres develop mental and physical health difficulties. A team of paediatricians and psychologists found 73% of children they examined had developed significant emotional and behavioural problems since being detained.
All those seen by a psychologist displayed symptoms of depression and anxiety produced by the confusion and fear about the experience. Even some children suffered the comeback of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study in 24 children shows serious issues in the Yarl’s Wood immigration centre, founding that:
• Eight children had lost weight, managing to lose 10% of their body weight.
• Three children had refused to feed themselves.
• Ten out of 11 children examined by a psychologist had begun to experience sleep disorders. Also, four of them start to bed-wetting, an indicator of severe stress.
• Four children had regressed language skills, including had become selectively mute.
• All nine parents interviewed reported severe psychological distress, some of them contemplated suicide.
Dr Kim Ehntholt, clinical psychologist, said that "The detained children's mental health is likely to have been negatively affected by a combination of factors including a recent deterioration in their parents' mental health, increased fear after being suddenly placed in a detention facility which children often believe is prison, anxiety over returning to their country of origin where they may have experienced traumatic events, as well as the abrupt loss of home, school and friends."