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Children of deported people are developing PTSD and depression, report finds

A new study by Detention Action and Families for Justice reveals the impact of deportations on children and calls for reform.

Protesters rally against the Hostile Environment in 2018. Image: Global Justice Now/flickr

Children of people deported by the government are developing clinical mental health disorders, a new report has found.

Children developed signs of childhood PTSD, and had been subjected to trauma without receiving support after their parents were deported, a report by Detention Action and campaign group Families for Justice has revealed.

The study, released this week, highlights the experiences of families caught up in the UK’s deportation system, and calls for reforms – including for the current automatic deportation scheme to be scrapped.

Jarmila, whose partner was deported in 2019, said: “I feel the way deportation works is unfair as it not only takes away a parent but is also breaking up a family and pushing innocent children into unhealthy circumstances.“

Under current laws, those who have nationality of another country and serve a prison sentence of over 12 months are automatically targeted for deportation.

The Big Issue found the Home Office spent over £11m on deportation charter flights in 2021, a figure which increased by a third on 2020’s spending.

The new report highlights the toll of the deportation system on those left behind, claiming families were pushed into poverty and children harmed.

Families for Justice is a group made up of women – wives, daughters, partners and mums – of those deported and targeted for deportation. It was founded two years ago.

Two psychologists assessed children whose fathers had been deported. One, Dr Anoushka Khan of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, found that children scored highly for difficulties related to social phobia, generalised anxiety, panic, obsessive compulsive disorder, and low mood.

Another psychologist, Dr Alison Foster of Tees, Esk, and Wear NHS Foundation, completed the same questionnaire with two children and discovered scores which would meet the clinical threshold for diagnosing panic and depression.

The report’s authors wrote: “When the Home Office carries out unjust deportations, there is little if any thought given to the British families harmed, left behind and forgotten. 

“Women and children have, through no fault of their own, been left alone to deal with discrimination, oppression, poverty and numerous barriers to justice.”

Families of those deported also experienced severe financial difficulties, with the report estimating the annual cost to one family to be £48,137.

The costs, run up by a family with two children whose father was deported, included childcare costs, legal fees,  and loss of income. 

Funding legal appeals left the children’s mother in debt, and the absence of her partner meant she was unable to work.

Emily, whose husband of over 20 years with whom she had four children was deported to Jamaica in 2020, said the experience had resulted in “years of mental torture.

She said: “I won’t ever stop fighting for my husband and my family, but I just don’t understand why the government of my own country and my children’s country would do this to us in the first place.”

Detention Action and Families for Justice called for the automatic deportation scheme to be replaced with a system that decides if deportations are genuinely in the public interests.

The report also said family members, including children, should be provided with support and information about the process.

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