Written by Sara Birch, Caseworker

Prisoners Abroad does not only provide practical and emotional support to British citizens imprisoned overseas and assist ex-prisoners with resettlement, on their return and release to the UK, but also provides vital support to the families and friends of prisoners with a wide range of services. You can read more about services that we provide to family members.

Currently, 2,027 family members are supported by Prisoners Abroad, of whom 1,321 of them are women – making up 61% of all of the family members that Prisoners Abroad supports. These women are currently supporting over 1,100 British citizens who are detained overseas.

Whilst, of course, our clients are often supported by their partners in the UK, our statistics show that it is mothers who make up the largest percentage of female family members with 383 mothers currently registered to receive our assistance – 29% of all of the women we support. Female partners make up 22%  of our family members, sisters account for 19% of this category, whilst 9% of our family members are daughters.

Prisoners Abroad provides vital emotional support for family members and caseworkers report experiencing often frequent contact with women who may be at risk of being particularly isolated for a variety of reasons. For example, due to their age/health /childcare commitments, they may find it more difficult than other family members to attend our regular Family Days and Family Support Groups.

Our free-phone helpline number allows family members to contact us five days a week to discuss any queries or concerns they may have in relation to the detention of their loved one. Caseworkers do not only provide practical support (i.e. advice regarding sending money or arranging visits) but are clear with callers that they are always available to discuss any concerns that family members may have and that they do not need to call with a specific question in mind.

Understandably mothers, partners, sisters, daughters and other women separated by imprisonment abroad from their loved ones can all experience high levels of concerns when a loved one is detained overseas.  Those currently working in the casework team at Prisoners Abroad each have over four years experience of supporting the welfare and human rights of British citizens detained abroad and are thus in a good position to be able to reassure callers who are understandably concerned that their loved one’s welfare may not be being adequately taken care of.  Any concerns as to the welfare of a detainee which is raised by a family member can also be quickly followed up by staff at Prisoners Abroad with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office if necessary.

Significantly, not only do the women whom we support benefit from the services that Prisoners Abroad can provide, we have found that often those detained abroad tell us that it is also for them a huge relief to know that their mother/partner/sister/daughter has someone to also help support them cope at such a difficult time:

 “I wanted to thank you very much for being there for me at such a terrible time. Sincerely, thank you very much and thank you for looking after my mother, she values this very much as I do.”  

- A former client