The Home Office is facing demands for an inquiry after it was claimed that pregnant refugees are not being fed or examined by doctors or midwives after arriving in the UK.
A first-time mother who was 38 weeks pregnant was not seen by a doctor for several weeks after crossing the Channel, it is alleged. After the Iraqi Kurdish woman was examined, it emerged that she had a pathological fear of pregnancy, and the baby had a breech presentation.
Other allegations include that expectant mothers are being offered water instead of food and are not being given privacy from security guards while being examined.
The claims come as the government plans to force councils to take unaccompanied children who have arrived in the UK via small boats. It is believed that more than 100 children are living in hotels because of a shortage of places in children’s homes.
Last month 27 people, including three children and a pregnant woman, drowned when their boat sank off the coast of France, in the single biggest loss of life of the Channel crisis so far.
Peter Kyle, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary and the MP for Hove and Portslade, has written to the Home Office asking it to investigate the treatment of at least five women at a hotel in his constituency.
In a letter sent this month, he wrote: “A community midwife has been into the hotel as there was a pregnant woman who required booking for her antenatal care. When she arrived she discovered that the woman was already 38 weeks pregnant and had not been seen by a doctor/GP since arrival in the UK. This woman has primary tokophobia and has a possible breech presentation.”
According to the letter, the midwife discovered there were another four women who required antenatal care. “She was required to attend to these women in a communal area and was unable to assess their other living conditions,” Kyle wrote.
Another letter of complaint, written by a health official, said guards were allegedly withholding food. “Sometimes the pregnant women were only given water,” the official claimed.
Three hotels in Hove have been taken over by the Home Office to house recent arrivals.
A Refugee Council report in April on the use of hotels to accommodate people arriving by boats claimed that some people had been left unable to access even basic healthcare despite many having complex health needs.
It found that they had received no assistance to register with a GP. Physical health needs had often been overlooked, such as people with mobility problems being placed on higher floors of hotels with no lifts.
The Home Office said it worked “closely with service providers to ensure the highest possible standards in our accommodation and takes the welfare of women very seriously. All accommodation follows safety standards and Covid-19 regulations.”
A Home Office spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases. “Asylum seekers in our care have access to medical support if they need it. All asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation and we also cover their utility costs. They are provided with a choice of three meals a day in line with NHS nutrition guidelines, as well as constant access to drinking water,” the spokesperson said.