Mental health charity Mind has called for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to revise its policies after a Nigerian man with mental health problems experienced inhuman and degrading treatment while in immigration detention.

This call came after Home Secretary Theresa May decided to pull out of an appeal in the case of the man, known as HA.

Charities Mind and Medical Justice (represented by Sue Willman of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors) were given permission to intervene in the appeal say that, in taking this decision, the UKBA effectively accepts that its policy of detaining people with mental health problems in immigration detention led to a serious breach of HA’s human rights.

During his time in detention, HA was not given appropriate medical treatment and as a result he descended into an acute mental health crisis that left him lying on the floor of his cell for hours on end, drinking from the toilet, avoiding other detainees and refusing food and medication for weeks at a time.

In April 2012, the High Court judgment by Mr Justice Singh, found the Home Secretary had unlawfully detained HA. He also found that HA’s treatment was so bad that it was inhuman and degrading, which is in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They also decided that it violated his right to physical and mental integrity (in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The High Court further held that the Home Secretary had failed to consider the equality impact of her policy of detaining people with mental health problems.

Martha Spurrier, lawyer in Mind’s Legal Unit, said: “Mind intervened in this case because HA’s experience is just one of many cases of shocking and systemic failings in the provision of mental health care to immigration detainees, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the UK."

“This is the fourth case in two years to identify a breach of the absolute prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment in immigration detention, something that the UK Border Agency should be ashamed of."

“We are now calling on the UK Border Agency to urgently review its policy to prevent more suffering. If it does not, there is a risk that these cases of ill-treatment will lead to deaths in immigration detention”.

Emma Mlotshwa, co-ordinator of Medical Justice, said: “Medical Justice volunteer doctors have assessed many detainees and documented the toxic effect of indefinite immigration detention on mental health. This, coupled with disturbingly inadequate healthcare in immigration removal centres, demonstrates that a policy review is urgent as the risk of death is real.”

In 2012, John Vine, the UKBA chief inspector and HM Inspectorate of Prisons highlighted unacceptable failures to provide adequate mental health care in the immigration detention estate. In their intervention, Mind and Medical Justice provided evidence and expertise to show that people with serious mental health problems should not be detained in immigration detention, and that mental health care in detention should meet approved clinical standards so as to safeguard the rights of detainees. The charities look forward to being urgently consulted on the equality impact assessment.