ARTICLE: Supporting people with immigration issues in the context of the Mental Health Act 1983 and Mental Capacity Act 2005

Migrants Organise is proud to share an article recently published in “Medicine, Science and the Law” which is the official peer reviewed official journal of the British Academy for Forensic Sciences (BAFS).

The article is co-written by our Legal Organiser Brian Dikoff alongside specialist psychiatrists Cornelius Katona, Piyal Sen, Rukyya Hassan, Rohit Shankar, Lucia Chaplin, Andrew Forrester. The authors are members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists‘ specialist “Asylum and refugee group”.

Providing mental health support to migrants and people claiming asylum with uncertain or unresolved immigration status and/or with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) can pose a distinct challenge for mental health practitioners within both hospital and community settings. We hope this article will be helpful to a multitude of professions- from Doctors, mental health specialists, lawyers to advocates and more.

This article:

  • focuses on the importance of health care professionals and NHS trusts to facilitate and ensure independent immigration advice and support for individuals, given how much of a risk factor unresolved immigration issue is when it comes to mental health.

  • recommends the NHS trusts invest on training and education for staff on hostile environment asylum and immigration issues so that they can better support their patients. This includes helping patients obtain accredited immigration advice, e.g. from legal aid providers and/or OISC charities. 

  • provides a broad brush description of the hostile environment, and the various interconnected challenges that migrants and asylum seekers face such as accommodation, surveillance, difficulties in accessing GP / health care, etc., and how they all detrimentally impact someone’s mental health.  

We also hope that the article can be useful in day to day advocacy with clients and maybe also in a Judicial Review context, in particular:

  • In the context of care and discharge planning, especially under the Mental Health Act 1983, the article makes clear that immigration support should be part of an overarching person-centred approach, and should be done as soon as possible

  • Dispersal issue is addressed specifically, particularly in relation to s117 aftercare duty and how professionals need to think about the impact of dispersal and difficulties in re-establishing support network especially for someone who is mentally vulnerable. Hopefully this can help argue destitution plus points when it comes to National Asylum Support Service (NASS) vs Local Authority (LA) A support. 

  • While the article talks mainly in the context of s117, there are many similarities within the context of Care Act. We hope the article can help help establish immigration support as a part of  eligibility outcomes under the Care Act (e.g. under access to services) and/or push LAs to exercise power under s19. This is particularly important when it comes to those with mental capacity issues with immigration decisions who might not have very clear Care Act eligibility. 

The Migrants Mental Capacity Advocacy (MMCA) Project at Migrants Organise is a strategic project which provides direct, holistic support for migrants and asylum seekers facing issues with their mental
capacity in relation to immigration matters. Learn more about the MMCA Project here.