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Press release on the government’s disgraceful dismissal of concerns about Wethersfield asylum camp

Kennith Rosario
Last week, the Home Office shamefully discredited the findings of our report, written jointly with Humans for Rights Network, which provided detailed evidence of the irreparable and profound harm caused to residents housed in the asylum camp at Wethersfield airfield. It is widely known that the Home Office hasn’t allowed several charities to enter the isolated camp site, yet the inability to ‘visit’ was used to dismiss evidence in the report. This is despite it being based on 10 detailed medical assessments and the testimony of over 100 men in Wethersfield.

Since the report was published in December 2023, Humans for Rights Network has spoken to over 200 additional men seeking asylum and accommodated in Wethersfield who have revealed that the conditions at the site continue to deteriorate. The camp is extremely isolated, has overcrowded living conditions, and lacks the necessary healthcare provision, causing additional pain and trauma to people who have already endured conflict, oppression, abuse, and extreme violence. Increasing numbers of men are reporting suicidal ideation, incidents of self-harm, and suicide attempts.

Of those moved to Wethersfield, most are Afghan, Eritrean, Syrian or Iranian. Between the camp opening in July 2023 and the end of January 2024, 231 men were moved out because they did not meet the suitability criteria outlined in the Home Office’s ‘Allocation of Accommodation’ policy. The policy recognised that for certain groups, including survivors of torture and trafficking and those with severe mental health issues, this type of accommodation is particularly harmful. Yet, rather than address the concerns in the report, in February the Home Office amended the ‘Allocation of Accommodation’ policy to make it much harder to move vulnerable people out of Wethersfield, despite the harm being caused to their health.

Kamena Dorling, Director of Policy at the Helen Bamber Foundation, said:

“When the former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal visited Wethersfield in February 2024, his key concern was the lack of any purposeful activity in the camp, which has a deteriorating effect on men’s mental health and increases the likelihood of violence. What’s worse, he had noted that zero changes had been made since his visit to the site in December 2023. With his recent sacking, it is all the more vital that charities continue to highlight the awful experiences of men placed in Wethersfield. It is an isolated site that feels like a prison and causes serious harm to physical and mental health. It should be shut immediately.”

Maddie Harris, Director of Humans for Rights Network, said:

“Since the publication of our joint report, not only has the Home Office continued to move more men into Wethersfield, but it has made no changes to the provision of support at the site to respond to the increasing number of men who are suffering acute psychological distress. By denying the experiences of these men, the Home Office is taking an unimaginable risk with the lives of the more than 600 people currently accommodated in Wethersfield. We are gravely concerned that before too long, someone will die.”

You can read the full report here: Ghettoised and traumatised: the experiences of men held in quasi-detention in Wethersfield  

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Note to editor:
  • The Helen Bamber Foundation (HBF) is a charity working with survivors of torture, trafficking and other extreme human cruelty. Its work includes conducting medical assessments of survivors, written by qualified clinical experts and commissioned by legal representatives, to corroborate a survivor’s testimony of ill-treatment. Each of HBF’s report writers has been trained in the forensic documentation of the physical and/or psychological and emotional sequelae of torture, ill-treatment and other serious forms of physical, psychological, or sexual violence in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol.
  • Humans for Rights Network (HFRN) is a need-led human rights organisation, established to facilitate safety and dignity for people forced to migrate; to advocate for a rights-based approach to the movement of people throughout Northern Europe; and to represent humans whose rights are violated.  It is led and informed by the migrants it works with and collaborates to address mistreatment and challenge systemic and structural racism and discrimination and their harmful impact.