Health needs and access to care in immigration detention: Perceptions of former detainees

Susan E. Zimmerman, Dawn Chatty, Marie Louise N⊘rredam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As immigration detainee numbers grow, doubts have arisen over the consistency, quality and suitability of the health care services provided among the UK detention estate and in other Western countries. Detained immigrants, due to their past and present situations, may be especially vulnerable in terms of their health. They may simultaneously lack entitlements to care due to their legal situation. Health needs and access to health care services in immigration detention is understudied. Therefore, this exploratory study aims to test the usefulness of a questionnaire among former detainees examining perceptions of their health needs and access to care within immigration detention in the UK. In total, 30 former detainees completed questionnaires, and 27 of these also participated in semi-structured interviews, in June/July 2010. Frequency analyses of questionnaire responses were performed. The results showed that 66 per cent of the participants entered detention with pre-existing mental or physical health conditions that required ongoing or new treatments. In addition, new mental/emotional (93 per cent) or physical (53 per cent) health problems arose for the majority of the participants within detention. Access to health care in detention was often problematic in its effectiveness or availability due to a variety of formal and informal challenges. The results of this exploratory study cast doubt on how appropriately the mental and physical health needs of detainees are being provided for within the current UK detention estate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-185
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 30 2012


  • Access
  • Detention
  • Health care
  • Immigrants
  • Mental health services
  • Needs
  • Organizational policy
  • Personal needs
  • United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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