Author: Esther King
More than 640 asylum seekers in immigration detention centers across the U.K. are on suicide watch and more than 200 have staged hunger strikes, according to a Guardian report.
The U.K. Home Office released the figures as part of a Freedom of Information request made by No Deportations, a non-government organization that offers advise to people who are subject to immigration laws.
According to the data, 218 people staged hunger strikes in July, August and September this year. There were 109 suicide attempts in the same period and 649 asylum seekers have been placed on suicide watch. With approximately 30,000 asylum seekers put in immigration detention centers every year, the Guardian estimated that at least 7,500 people were in detention during that time period.
The Brook House detention center near Gatwick airport outside of London reported the highest number of people refusing to eat and the most detainees on suicide watch.
The figures illustrate “the degree of desperation, frustration and sense of helplessness” felt by detainees, acting director of Medical Justice Theresa Schleicher told the Guardian.
For some detainees, hunger strikes are “the only way to make their voice heard,” Schleicher said, adding that several hunger strikers were later found to have had valid protection claims and had been unlawfully detained.
The Home Office initially refused to make the figures public. The data was released after an appeal to the information commissioner, in which the commissioner found that the Home Office had breached the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply within a reasonable time period.
“All incidents of self-harm are treated very seriously and every step is taken to prevent incidents of this nature,” the Home Office said in a statement upon data release.