Women for Refugee Women, Birth Companions, British Medical Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Medical Justice and Maternity Action have prepared a joint briefing on the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’.

Under the new ‘Illegal Migration Bill’, women fleeing persecution who arrive in the UK via ‘irregular’ means will be prevented from claiming asylum and detained indefinitely, with no exemption for those who are pregnant, removing the vital protection introduced by the 2016 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women.

Being locked up and deprived of your liberty is distressing and harmful for anyone. For
women who are pregnant, however, the impact of detention can be particularly acute:

  • The Royal College of Midwives has said: ‘The detention of pregnant asylum seekers increases the likelihood of stress, which can risk the health of the unborn baby.’
  • In his 2016 review of the welfare of vulnerable people in immigration detention, Stephen Shaw explained: ‘That detention has an incontrovertibly deleterious effect on the health of pregnant women and their unborn children… I take to be a statement of the obvious.’
  • Healthcare in immigration detention if often very poor. The antenatal care and support provided to women who are detained has often fallen short of the care normally available to pregnant women.
  • Research by Medical Justice found that in Yarl’s Wood, women often missed antenatal appointments; some women had no ultrasound scans while detained; and women did not have direct access to a midwife and could not request visits.

We cannot go back to what was happening before 2016, when many pregnant women were being detained for weeks, and sometimes months on end, with no idea of when they would be released.



For further information, please contact Gemma at gemma@refugeewomen.co.uk