People at risk of suicide and who have been threatened with deportation to Rwanda have been told to learn a musical instrument or try sudoku instead of getting advice, the Guardian has learned.
A man, in his forties and of East African descent, has been held at the Colnbrook Immigration Center near Heathrow Airport since arriving in the UK by boat in May. The Interior Ministry has sent him a removal order to Rwanda, and his lawyers have until Friday to respond.
He has been recognized as a torture survivor during an assessment by medical health professionals while in detention, who also acknowledged that he was at risk of self-harm or suicide due to his current and past trauma. The man is also suspected to have been a survivor of modern slavery and human trafficking, which he experienced before coming to the UK.
Despite this medical examination he underwent during his detention, he was not offered any counseling. Instead, he received a handout with suggestions on “how to feel better,” including the suggestions: “do a crossword or sudoku” and “play an instrument or learn to play one.”
In the letter, from the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, dated May 30 and seen by the Guardian, the man was told: “You have been referred to the Psychology Wellbeing Service for support for the trauma you have experienced in the past. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we are unable to provide one-on-one psychology sessions at this time.”
The letter went on to say that a “trauma handout kit” would be provided, which “provides information on trauma, techniques and strategies for self-supporting” during immigration detention.
Talking about his experience and the prospect of being sent to Rwanda, the man said: “I cannot think clearly because of the prospect of being sent to a country similar to that or worse. I have taken a traumatizing and long journey to escape. †
The handout included a list of “45 things you can do to feel better,” with suggestions like: “Do a crossword or sudoku,” “Ask the cops for a job,” “punch a punching bag.” “do some coloring or painting” and “try aromatherapy”.
Another Iranian man who has been detained, has been issued a removal order and has also been recognized as a torture survivor has received the same letter.
Gina Skandari, a lawyer at Duncan Lewis who represents the client, said the Home Office had failed to put in place adequate security measures when informed of her client’s intention to commit suicide.
She said: “Trauma-related mental health problems require expert treatment – this cannot be replaced by an information pack recommending aromatherapy and a new haircut. In light of the apparent flaws in the system, the Department of the Interior could change its policy on should reconsider detaining vulnerable people.”
“Much of the detainee population has serious mental health problems because of their implicit vulnerabilities and as a direct result of detention. The Department of the Interior should implement stricter mental health screenings to identify those under their care who are at risk of harm, in order to provide appropriate support.”
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “The health and well-being of those in immigration detention is of the utmost importance to us.
“All Immigration Removal Centers have dedicated health facilities run by doctors and nurses who provide mental health support to NHS England standards, while welfare teams work on site to identify vulnerable individuals and provide support where needed, including taking every step to prevent self-harm or suicide. †