Separating a breastfeeding mother from her infant is against Home Office guidelines and after campaigning on similar cases last year we were assured there would be no further cases.
Thanks to work by the Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Crossroads Women’s Centre, Janipher received support while she was in the grim conditions of the detention centre separated from her children. They were brought to her in a family unit about a week later and she has since been released.
On Tuesday Janipher appeard at a meeting at the House of Commons alongside campaigners and Lord Avebury, who had been active chasing up the home office. Find out more at:
Today Janipher was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 PM programme as part of a longer piece on conditions in the detention centres. She explained that she had been unable to eat while detained and had even contemplated suicide. As the programme reports, suicides and self harm are worryingly common. I hope I'll be able to include the clip in my podcast.
The Home Office guidance is available at:
The relevant part is in Chapter 58:
58.7 Separating Breastfeeding Mothers and Children
- Breastfeeding children should not be separated from their mother purely for Immigration purposes. The only exception would be if there are compelling and exceptional circumstances which indicate that this may be appropriate to keep the child safe
- If it is only discovered on the detention visit that the mother has recently given birth it should not be assumed that just because there may be bottles/baby food in the house that the mother is not breastfeeding her child. Neither should it be assumed that just because she does not state that she is breastfeeding that she is not. Officers must ask the question directly.
- Additionally, the age of a child is not always an indicator that the mother may or may not be breastfeeding. It is not uncommon in some cultures for mothers to breastfeed their children into their formative years. Again, officers must ask the question directly.
- Authority to separate a breastfeeding mother and child must be obtained from an officer of Assistant Director Level or above in all cases. There must be full written record of the authorisation, the reason for the split and who was informed e.g. police, social services, detention services etc as well as any proposed future actions required.
Let us hope the guidelines are followed in future.