An asylum seeker has filed a claim against the UK’s Home Office after her baby died in utero and was stillborn when she was in support accommodation provided by the Home Office. Judge Freeland QC ordered that the woman’s name be suppressed in a remote ruling of the County Court at Central London.
The woman alleges that the support accommodation staff failed to call an ambulance after she requested they do so while bleeding and in pain. She alleges that she waited for three hours in reception until another migrant called an ambulance.
The woman’s solicitors said that she is suing on the ground of negligence which gave rise to “personal injury, psychiatric damage, distress, and anxiety.” She is also suing on the ground of the Equality Act of 2010 “for the discrimination she experienced and the breach of her human rights.” Section 17 of the Equality Act prohibits discrimination against pregnant persons in non-work cases.
By bringing the claim the woman aims to trigger a change in the Home Office’s systems so that other pregnant persons avoid experiencing the treatment she endured. One such change suggested by the woman’s solicitors is in how the Home Office provides its support accommodation services. Currently, it enters into a contract with a third party who provides the services. The contract is awarded to the third party with the lowest bid for the contract. The woman’s solicitors suggested this practice cease.
One of the partners instructing the barrister in the women’s case, Ugo Hayter, commented:
Our client has experienced a catalogue of mistreatment all linked to her being a woman, pregnant, and black. At 8 months pregnant she had to flee her home country to find safety. Upon arrival in the UK destitute and alone, she was sexually exploited. Having finally managed to access help from the authorities, whilst heavily pregnant and bleeding, she experienced [dehumanizing] treatment. This case is less about the callous treatment she received from the staff, but more about a system that breeds such treatment. The treatment of our client is an outcome of the government’s hostile environment policy.
Hayter’s concerns are mirrored in views shared by wider commentators. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants wrote in a tweet “The level of inhumanity here is unspeakable. But we know Home Office neglect [and] cruelty towards asylum seekers is routine.”
The woman’s solicitors noted their wish for the Home Office to “take the necessary steps promptly” given the re-traumatization of the woman a court trial could give rise to. The parties have also been ordered to try alternative dispute resolution before proceeding with the litigation.