Mental health crisis unfolds at RAF Wethersfield Mass Containment Site: Doctors of the World and Médecins Sans Frontières call for urgent site closure 

Mental health crisis unfolds at RAF Wethersfield Mass Containment Site: Doctors of the World and Médecins Sans Frontières call for urgent site closure 


Wethersfield, Essex – Doctors of the World (DOTW) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are issuing an urgent call to the UK government to close RAF Wethersfield, a former RAF barracks turned mass asylum containment site, due to severe mental health crises among people accommodated at the site.  

Since November 2023, Doctors of the World, in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières UK, has been providing medical services to people held at Wethersfield through a mobile clinic stationed outside the site. The men held at Wethersfield are 18 to 65 years old, and often Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, Eritrean, Iraqi or Sudanese. 

The report, based on medical data and observations, highlights the profound impact of the UK government’s mass containment site policy on the health, wellbeing, and dignity of individuals seeking safety, and documents the government's failure to apply its own policy to protect people with serious physical and mental health needs. Key revelations from the briefing include: 

  • Men are experiencing mental health crises: Over 74% of individuals accessing medical services at Wethersfield presented with severe psychological distress, with a staggering 41% experiencing suicidal ideation, as well as deliberate self-harm and suicide attempts. The prevalent diagnoses include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms. 68% of people accessing the DOTW-MSF medical service had previous experience of violence or abuse. 
  • Prison-like conditions exacerbate mental health issues: People describe the site as reminiscent of a prison, with limited control over their environment and constant feelings of insecurity. Overcrowding, lack of privacy, and absence of agency contribute to a sense of hopelessness and despair among people, many of whom have endured trauma and violence in their countries of origin and during their migration journeys. 
  • Protection failures: Recognising sites like Wethersfield are not suitable for those with “the most serious physical and mental health needs,” the Home Office has a policy to screen people before placing them in containment sites. The report reveals that 75% of people accessing the DOTW-MSF medical services were not suitable, under the policy, to be placed at Wethersfield.  

A health service has been commissioned to provide assessments and primary healthcare appointments on weekdays, however there are not sufficient or appropriate services onsite to meet the complex health needs of people at Wethersfield, including a lack of easily accessible therapeutic services for the high level of people with severe mental health needs such as PTSD.  This means emergency and ambulance service are called regularly1 and people come to the DOTW-MSF service seeking further help.   

Dr. Kate Morgan, clinician, expressed grave concern over the situation, stating, "The men express a constant desire for community, but the nature and design of this site prohibits this possibility. Our patients come to us seeking help and support because this place is unsuitable for healing and good mental health." The report underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift in asylum policy, on medical grounds, emphasising the importance of dignified, community-based accommodation and comprehensive healthcare services. 

Anna Miller, Head of Advocacy and Policy at Doctors of the World, stated, "RAF Wethersfield, like all mass containment sites, is not a place of safety or recovery. It perpetuates harm and trauma, exacerbating people’s mental health conditions. It is imperative that the UK government closes RAF Wethersfield and ends the policy of using mass containment sites." 

In response to these alarming findings, DOTW UK and MSF call upon the UK Government to take immediate action: 

  • Close RAF Wethersfield: The site must be shut down without delay to prevent further harm to people and uphold their basic human rights. 
  • End Mass Containment: The policy of using mass containment sites to accommodate people seeking asylum is fundamentally flawed and must be abandoned in favour of community-based solutions. 
  • Ensure Access to Care: People seeking asylum should have access to protection and necessary and appropriate physical and psychological healthcare. 
  • Abandon the Illegal Migration Act and Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act and allow people arriving in the UK to access the asylum system.  

For media inquiries, please contact: Melanie Delaroche, Doctors of the World Communications and Engagement Manager:, or the MSF UK Press team:


About Doctors of the World (DOTW) 

Doctors of the World fights to defend a fair and universal health system and provides emergency and long-term medical care to people in crisis around the world. Doctors of the World has over fifteen years of experience in providing support to those most vulnerable to healthcare denial and exclusion, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the UK. 

About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 

Médecins Sans Frontières is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation providing medical and humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict, violence, epidemics, or excluded from healthcare. MSF has a long history of providing support to people who have been forcibly displaced seeking safety, protection and healthcare including those within Europe. 


About MSF UK

This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

MSF UK's privacy notice is available here.

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