From Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice in partnership with Alliance for Choice Belfast & Alliance for Choice Derry
Released Monday 31st October 2022
As a collective of organisations and individuals working towards reproductive justice, we are horrified to learn that 8 pregnant women were detained in Larne House immigration detention facility between June 2016 and June 2022. Reproductive justice challenges the oppressive systems and structures that prevent women and pregnant people from fully exercising their reproductive rights. It is based on community solidarity, care and human rights. This includes the right of pregnant people to access the highest possible standard of health in pregnancy and the right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, as protected in international human rights instruments.
International human rights bodies have condemned the UK government’s policy on the incarceration of pregnant women in immigration detention centres, as have human rights experts in the UK such as Liberty who are calling for a complete prohibition. Research evidence that demonstrates the detention of pregnant migrants and asylum seekers is associated with significantly higher levels of maternal morbidity and mortality, as well as increased infant mortality, has led the Royal College of Midwives to also call for a complete prohibition on this practice.
We support calls for the closure of Larne House detention centre due to the catalogue of evidence that immigration detention in the UK is not being used in compliance with the government’s own policies, and is in breach of a number of human rights obligations. However, we are particularly calling for the practice of detaining pregnant people to stop immediately. The Home Office’s own guidance states that alternative approaches to addressing migration concerns must be exhausted before a pregnant migrant is placed in detention. We are therefore calling on all relevant authorities in Northern Ireland to commit to pursuing alternatives to detention. Whilst immigration policy is not devolved, there are many agencies here in our devolved administration that could be doing much more to protect the health and rights of pregnant migrants and their children.
We call on the Ministers for Justice, Health and Communities in particular to examine the work of their departments in ensuring that no pregnant person is deprived of their liberty in Northern Ireland purely on the basis of their immigration status. As a society that claims to value life, it is abhorrent that we are putting vulnerable women, pregnant people and babies in harm’s way. As intersectional feminists it is our role to embrace everyone as an essential and cared-for part of our community and to call out systems that create racist patterns of exclusion and discrimination. We are asking all MPs, MLAs and other elected representatives to join us in standing against this harm and showing their support for an end to the detention of pregnant migrants in Larne House.
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