Immigration officials blamed for turning HIV patients into prisoners

NHS believes security steps have converted Hillingdon hospital into prison

4th May 2011:
In what is being seen as a shocking revelation, immigration officials have been blamed for turning HIV patients into prisoners
NHS consultants believe the UK Border Agency’s security steps have converted Hillingdon hospital into nothing less than a prison.

The consultants claim HIV patients at a London hospital have literally been imprisoned following a move by immigration officials to secure the sexual health unit.

Hillingdon hospital in west London offers treatment to detainees at two immigration removal centres near Heathrow, along with other patients. The doctors, however, refused to treat an HIV-positive detainee as a guard refused to un-cuff the patient. A report on the incident was prepared and forwarded to the medical director.

UKBA officials subsequently put up restraints on the hospital’s sexual health clinic’s windows to prevent detainees escape.

A consultant at the hospital-cum-HIV specialist Ben Holden says the unit is now a prison for all of them. The windows only open two inches and the UKBA has installed thick locks on them. They were told they would bring removable window restraints, but these are permanent.

No detainee has ever absconded or attempted to abscond. As doctors, they believe keeping immigration detainees restrained or locked in is discriminatory. They don’t want to be part of a process that treats people in a less than human way, he adds.

Chair of the British HIV Association Professor Jane Anderson adds BHIVA and the National Aids Trust have developed advice on appropriate HIV treatment and care for people in the immigration removal system. They are disappointed to hear that this advice is not always being followed.

They want to see the highest standards of care for everyone with HIV in the UK. Any factors that make the provision of high quality clinical care difficult give them cause for concern.

Co-ordinator of the charity Medical Justice Emma Ginn says along with the potentially lethal medical abuse they suffer in detention centres, detainees are suffering sub-human conditions in hospital.

The UK Border Agency, on the other hand, said: "We have agreed the installation of window locks for detainee treatment with Hillingdon hospital and are working with them to address the concerns now raised. Detainees are only handcuffed when absolutely necessary and they are not handcuffed during treatment.

"The welfare of detainees is important but this must always be balanced with the security of the detainees and the public. Detainees have round-the-clock access to healthcare services to discuss their medication needs."

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