Birth Companions’ response to report on ‘shocking’ number of asylum seeker infant deaths in Home Office accommodation
Data obtained by Liberty Investigates and gal-dem has found that since 2017, eight babies born to asylum-seeking mothers housed in Home Office accommodation have died before their first birthday; seven of these deaths have taken place since 2020. These recent infant deaths in state accommodation are hugely concerning, and should set alarm bells ringing for us all.
Asylum-seeking women in the UK experience many barriers to healthcare and have worse outcomes during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood than the general population. Many of these women live in poverty or are destitute, are fearful of NHS charging policies, and are socially isolated. This, combined with language barriers and poor provision of interpretation services in many areas, means women and babies can be at significant risk during pregnancy, labour, and the crucial early weeks and months after birth. Here at Birth Companions we support many pregnant women, mothers and infants in the asylum system, and time and again we see how these issues affect their health and wellbeing.
As the provider of housing to asylum-seeking pregnant women, the Home Office has a responsibility to do everything in its power to make sure they and their babies are safe and supported. These new figures, and the harrowing stories from women who have experienced pregnancy and birth while in Home Office accommodation, suggest that is not happening.
The fact that the circumstances in which these eight young lives ended have not been thoroughly investigated shows how far treatment of those with insecure immigration status differs from treatment of others in the UK. Stillbirths and neonatal deaths are, as a matter of course, investigated by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, but this appears not to apply in Home Office accommodation.
In light of these figures, uncovered thanks to Liberty Investigates and gal-dem, the way in which infant deaths are recorded and investigated needs urgent review; and a commitment must be made to greater scrutiny and transparency around the care of pregnant women, mothers and babies in the UK’s immigration system.
You can read and watch more coverage of this story on ITV News, including interviews with women who were pregnant as asylum seekers, professionals who have supported them, and Birth Companions’ Kirsty Kitchen.