We are failing the most vulnerable pregnant women in our society. Women who have experienced serious trauma and abuse in their home countries, who often have underlying health conditions, and who are in the UK seeking refuge and protection. The report published today by the Refugee Council and Maternity Action explains how we take these women and “disperse” them around the country during their pregnancy. Women within days of giving birth are uprooted from the communities who support them, from the fathers of their children, and from the health professionals who have cared for them. The UK Border Agency policy that permits such mistreatment is a national disgrace.
At the launch of the report tonight in the Houses of Parliament, Sethu, one of the women featured in the report, spoke about how she had been sent from Leeds, her home of 8 years, across the country shortly before she gave birth, away from her partner, her specialist midwife, her charitable support worker and her NCT classes. She managed to return to Leeds to give birth but under pressure from UKBA she discharged herself early to return to her new accommodation. She contracted an infection and was admitted to a local hospital which refused to allow her to see her newborn baby except during prescribed visiting hours.
The report is full of similar stories. It helps us understand how it is that refugee women are 6 times more likely to die in childbirth than British women. And as obstetrician Daghni Rajasingham said at the event tonight, there is simply no reason for such an arbitrary dispersal policy that has clear economic as well as human costs.
It should galvanise every one of us who cares about women’s rights to take action to change UKBA policy. Join the campaign.