Yesterday we had six visitors to our charity. Two student nurses, two student social workers, one development worker and one psychiatric specialist working in Accident and Emergency. We did our usual thing of telling the visitors a little about where asylum system seekers come from, why they end up in the UK, some of the difficulties they face and how our charity supports over 750 asylum seekers and refugees each year.
We also had time for questions. Most came from the psychiatric specialist. She really wanted to understand what was going on. For her it was vital. She’s an expert in self-harm and suicide. The reason she came to see us is that she sees too many asylum seekers in her job. Asylum seekers who are so desperate because of how they are treated in the UK, that that try to kill themselves. “And they really go for it,” she said.
What struck me was what she said next. She has to send them away as they do not have a mental illness. Their self-harming and attempting suicide is caused by what they are experiencing. In some ways it is perfectly natural for someone to resort to such desperate measures when they are in such desperate situations.
At least 33 asylum seekers have committed suicide in the UK since 2005 (http://www.irr.org.uk/2005/september/ha000021.html).
by Peter Richardson, Leeds Asylum Seekers' Support Network, http://www.lassn.org.uk/