Update 11/05/16

This amendment to end the detention of pregnant women was rejected by the Government. However, the Home Office has now responded to the widespread concern about pregnant women being locked up. There will now be a time limit of 72 hours on the detention of pregnant women. Although this falls short of the absolute exclusion we hoped for, we welcome this as a positive first step. Thank you for joining us in this important campaign! We will be in touch shortly with further actions.


Yesterday, the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Immigration Bill that, if it passed into law, would end the detention of pregnant women in Yarl’s Wood.

We at Women for Refugee Women are delighted that the Lords have voted so resoundingly in favour of this amendment. It’s wonderful that so many peers decided that it’s time to protect vulnerable women. We have been recommending an end to the detention of pregnant women as part of our Set Her Free campaign, and were pleased to see that recommendation echoed by Stephen Shaw in his January 2016 review of vulnerable detainees, which was commissioned by the Home Office. We hope the Government takes on board the clear consensus that pregnant women should not be detained when the Immigration Bill returns to the Commons.

Presenting the amendment in Parliament yesterday, Baroness Ruth Lister told the House of Lords: ‘As Women for Refugee Women argue, refusing to accept Shaw’s clear recommendation of an absolute exclusion from detention on the basis of what would appear to be a small number of cases each year where swift removal might be possible, and when there is clear evidence that allowing decision-makers discretion results in significant numbers of pregnant women being detained in circumstances that are far from exceptional…is not sensible, effective or humane policy-making.’

You can read the full debate here.

The Bill now goes back to the House of Commons, so this amendment can be debated by members of Parliament.

If you haven’t already, please take a moment today to email your MP (you can find their details here) and encourage them to speak up about vulnerable women in detention.

You may want to say that:

  • You are concerned about why the government is locking up pregnant women in Yarl’s Wood, even though the Royal College of Midwives says: ‘The detention of pregnant asylum seekers increases the likelihood of stress, which can risk the health of the unborn baby.’
  • You are concerned that the government detained 99 pregnant women in 2014, even though Home Office policy says pregnant women will only be detained ‘in exceptional circumstances’.
  • You would like to know what your MP is doing to stand up for vulnerable women who cross borders, and whether your MP will speak up for women in detention when the Immigration Bill goes back to the House of Commons.

You can read a fuller briefing on the detention of pregnant women, with answers to frequently asked questions, here.

You can read one pregnant woman’s story here and watch a short film by Mumsnet on the detention of pregnant women here.

Do feel free to share these materials widely.

We hope that by informing more MPs about this issue we can ensure that fewer vulnerable women are locked up in detention.

There are other progressive amendments on the Immigration Bill that will be debated next week. You can also ask your MP to support the amendments on asylum seekers’ right to work and on bringing unaccompanied child refugees to the UK.

Would you like refugees to find a fair hearing and dignified treatment in the UK? If so, don’t keep your views to yourself – let your MP know!