Afghan baby born in UK hotel room as Kabul evacuees still live 'in limbo'

Charity worker who is a nurse became a stand-in midwife but the birth raises questions about the care available to refugees

An Afghan woman has given birth in a British hotel room, helped only by a nurse who was desperately receiving delivery tips over the phone, highlighting serious problems in the asylum system.

Nurse Melanie Clark was forced to deliver the baby when paramedics failed to reach the hotel.

She anxiously took directions and had them translated, while keeping a telephone line open with the ambulance service control centre.

The baby’s birth raises questions about care available for the thousands of Afghan evacuees flown out of Kabul last summer, many of whom are living in hotels across the country.

Ms Clark, an RAF veteran, arrived at the hotel in London intending to set up a donations stall with fellow veteran Matt Simmons as part of Ems4Afghans, a community organisation from Emsworth in Hampshire.

"Matt handed me a phone and basically said this man's wife is pregnant — she's in pain. We went up to the room, I thought I would be maybe reassuring someone and making sure an ambulance was on its way."

Neither the mother nor her husband spoke much English, but another volunteer was found who could help translate messages.

Questions and answers were relayed from the ambulance control room to Ms Clark and her colleague and then translated for the husband and wife, and back again.

“I am a nurse but midwifery didn't come in our nurse training. Before the baby arrived, before its head came out, it was scary,” said Ms Clark, who works at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

"It was scary and nerve-racking about whether this was going to turn out OK."

The healthy baby boy, the mother's sixth child and Ms Clark’s first delivery, was born surrounded by hotel towels.

Health questions

Ms Clark, who served in Iraq, says the birth raises questions about the level of medical care available for refugees.

"They are registered with a GP but the level of support they have had and the knowledge of their pregnancies is very, very limited. I just thought, I am sure it will happen again," she said.

"Rather than the warm welcome people were promised, they're seeing the cold reality of our refugee protection system
Louise Calvey

She said more needed to be done to help those evacuated from Afghanistan.

"We can't just stand by... just bringing them into this country is not enough because they are traumatised and they need some kind of future... they need to know what's happening next.

"I went to Iraq. I have seen the difficulties people face and the effects of war on people," Ms Clark said.

Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at the charity Refugee Action, said people brought to the UK during the Kabul withdrawal were "living in limbo".

"We'd like to offer our congratulations to the family. We hope they can build safe and happy lives in the UK,” she said.

"But it's appalling that three months after the evacuation of Kabul thousands of Afghan refugees are still living in limbo in hotels with no settled access to employment, healthcare or education.

"Rather than the warm welcome people were promised, they're seeing the cold reality of our refugee protection system.”

The Home Office has said the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme is "not yet open" and that more information will be provided in due course.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 5:31 PM