Staff and Volunteer Accounts of the Experiences of Mothers Detained in British Immigration Removal Centres

Prof Doc Thesis

Harrison, S. 2021. Staff and Volunteer Accounts of the Experiences of Mothers Detained in British Immigration Removal Centres. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsHarrison, S.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Existing research highlights the negative consequences of immigration detention on psychological wellbeing for women and children. Moreover, prison literature documents how mother-child separation through incarceration influences how women relate to themselves as mothers. No research focuses explicitly on the experiences of mothers that have been detained in British Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). This research explores staff and volunteers’ accounts of mothers’ experiences of being detained in IRCs. A human rights framework, alongside psychological theories of mother-child separation, underpinned this exploration.
Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with nine participants; interviews were analysed using Thematic Analysis (TA), within a critical realist epistemological framework.
Three themes were identified. Theme One ‘Continuations of Violations and Suffering’ discusses participants’ accounts of the ongoing violence that is experienced by women throughout the UK asylum process, from experiences of suffering within detention to a lack of support post-detention. Theme Two ‘Consequences of Separation’ encompasses participants’ perspectives of the psychological harm of immigration detention on women, their children, and the mother-child relationship. Theme Three ‘Learning Lessons’ describes participants’ recommendations for future professionals working with mothers that have previously been detained in IRCs.
The findings of the analysis are discussed in relation to the empirical and theoretical literature. Within this, various factors of the immigration process that are reported to affect mother-child relationships are discussed, alongside the ethical dilemma of psychologising suffering. In considering the reported negative consequences on wellbeing for women and children, this research argues against the use of indefinite detention. Implications for future research, clinical practice and policy are considered.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Online02 Nov 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted23 Aug 2021
Deposited02 Nov 2021
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License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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